School heating, cooling upgrade on hold

Published 11:45 am Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The second phase of an upgrade to heating and cooling systems in Albert Lea school buildings has hit a snag.

Albert Lea Area Schools Director of Finance and Operations Lori Volz told the school board Monday evening that Southwest Middle School will not receive its planned heating and ventilation upgrades this summer because the bids received were significantly over budget.

The budget for the Southwest project was a little more than $2.96 million. The lowest bid the district received was $3.45 million, though the final number also depends on what features and options the district would have chosen.

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This will not affect the work already planned to Sibley Elementary School, which will be done by Wagner Construction of Austin. The accepted bid amount was just under $1.66 million.

“The bids for the Sibley project were very close to our budget,” Volz told the board.

Her plan know is to meet with the school board’s facility committee, made up of members Linda Laurie, Jill Marin and Julie Johnson, to review an adapted plan based on the recommendations of ICS, the construction management firm with which the district is working.

Volz said the construction companies that submitted bids found a few factors that would cause extra costs. One of the major reasons the bids were so high was that the district had hoped all the construction work could be contained to the summer months of 2013. Volz said some of the companies said if they could work in other months of the year that costs would likely be lower. Another reason is that Southwest is physically larger than the elementary schools in the district.

Some construction at Southwest could be completed during the school year without interfering with class instruction, Volz said. She expects to meet with the board’s facility committee to adjust the scope of the project and possibly again go out for bids in August.

“Initially we intended it would be completed in summer 2013, but it will most likely be the fall of 2013 through the summer of 2014,” Volz said.

While Sibley Elementary will get its planned HVAC upgrades this summer, that means there could potentially be three schools getting HVAC upgrades in the summer of 2014. Those three would include Lakeview and Halverson elementaries, and possibly Southwest.

Brookside Education Center and Hawthorne Elementary School received their planned upgrades in the summer of 2012.

The total project, with all six schools, has an anticipated budget of $14.6 million.