The Saugerties Central School District Board of Education heard an update on its various capital projects last week, and while some are on schedule, others are facing delays and callbacks due to a lack of interest from contractors.
A flooring investment project at Charles M. Riccardi Elementary School was approved by the New York State Education Department (SED) in early 2021, with an estimated completion date ahead of the 2021-22 school year. But this project did not receive any offers. During a meeting of the SCSD Board of Education on Tuesday, June 21, James Bouffard, senior architectural designer at Tetra Tech, a Pasadena, California-based consulting and engineering firm with offices around the world, provided an update.
“We met with some members of the county administration team today to discuss possible options and ways of dealing with this, (with) a few different scenarios,” Bouffard said. “I need to contact the SED just to get their support for a couple of potential options there, and then we’ll regroup and figure out what makes the most sense for the district to get the best bang for its buck.”
When asked if it’s unusual not to receive bids on a building project, Jeff Andrews, a consultant with Albany-based BBL Construction Services, said it hadn’t previously been the case. “It’s really not that common, but it’s something we’re seeing more and more,” he said.
The presentation to the school board described an “extraordinary confluence of events” affecting construction projects, including the war in Ukraine, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, material shortages, labor shortages, production and shipping delays, price volatility and contractors who are just are too busy with other projects.
“We had 97 contractors that we contacted to do the work,” Andrews said. “We’ve had people come by and we got zero bids.”
This prompted the consultants to consider rethinking their approach.
“Some of those are kind of an aspect where we can probably break the scope up a bit,” Andrews said. “And instead of assigning it to a general contractor, for example, it applies to a few contractors and they have more opportunities for that area.”
Bouffard said the ideal time to repackage and rebid the Riccardi project is next fall, with plans to submit plans to the state around February 2023, with a view to starting construction over the summer break a few months later and one graduation in November.
Ceilings, walls and floors leaking
The school board meeting also discussed elements of the district’s $22,000,390 tax-neutral, district-wide facilities project, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters in December 2020. The average age of the district buildings is over 70 years and the ceilings, walls and floors show signs of devastation to stucco-clad exterior walls and under cork-clad floors. Exterior work on crumbling pathways and other areas throughout the district is also part of the overall scope of the project.
The roofing work for the project was subcontracted to Voorheesville-based S&L Roofing and this work is pending state submission. But delays and renewed bidding are disrupting other parts of the project, and Bouffard said they are exploring a deal with the state for some aspects, including resurfacing the Saugerties High School track, which could begin next September or October.
“It would certainly benefit the people using the track, especially in the spring,” Bouffard said.
What isn’t possible is expanding the number of lanes on the route from six to eight, something that’s been debated for nearly two decades, as supporters believe it would allow the county to host major sporting events, often to others school districts go. The idea was considered during a $28 million facility plan that was completed in the fall of 2008, but then-superintendent Richard Rhau said the expansion would have been too expensive.
Bouffard said the idea came up again for the current facility project and was rejected again.
“There’s been some talk about it,” Bouffard said. “But ultimately it was felt that working with the existing structure…the cost of remodeling the track to add the extra lanes on the outside was just going to be very expensive. Therefore, it was not considered at that time.”
It is also hoped that considering how to approach the submission and bid process for the construction of a small stage at one end of the gymnasium at Grant D. Morse Elementary School and bringing it together in one bid set will help generate interest to wake up to the project.
“As you recall, we made a collective decision to pull this out of the previous SED submission,” Bouffard said. “This is a very important cornerstone of the investment project to achieve, so it’s being repackaged as we speak.”
Bouffard said they hope to resubmit the plans for the stage to the SED in July this year, while also getting the state’s approval for a building code deviation. Then the phase would be merged with a larger rebid package expected to expire in early 2023.
Overall, the scope of the capital project is likely to change.
“Unfortunately, the full scope will not be achieved,” said Bouffard. “So it’s really about finding the things that make the most sense with the highest demands.”
The subsequent bids also make an initial completion date in late summer 2023 impossible for the investment project.
“I’m looking at the build and putting off a few summers,” Bouffard said. “We have been working with the district’s financial advisors to ensure this is feasible and will not cause difficulties.”