Debate likely as school expansion costs coming in under budget

More than million dollars saved at Crested Butte

A guaranteed maximum price (GMP) has been set for each of the Gunnison RE1J school district’s two largest expansion and renovation projects and both show the final cost to be under budget.



At a regular meeting of the RE1J school board Monday, July 13, the district’s owner representative from the Blythe Group & Co., which is overseeing the projects, Ethan Gibson said the GMP for the Crested Butte Community School, which the district had been prepared to pay more than $15.5 million for, came in “significantly under budget” at $13,926,093.
The district’s largest project, the renovation of Gunnison High School, beat the estimate of $19,158,608 by more than $95,000.
The cost of GHS might have been lower had the asbestos abatement effort gone as planned. Instead, Gibson said contractors continued to find asbestos as they went about removing walls and materials that had been identified as containing the known carcinogen. The extra effort cost the district around $90,000, but still managed to stay almost $100,000 under budget.  
“The reason it was more than we had originally anticipated was, first of all, we had not anticipated the abatement contractor having to take out block walls…then we discovered that there was asbestos in the primer that was put on before the blocks were painted,” he said, adding that an abatement specialist is the only contractor qualified to remove
The abatement contractors also found block walls in the high school that “were so poorly constructed they were unsafe,” Gibson told the board, which required contractors to unexpectedly do more work and forced a larger bill on the district.  
Gibson said the GMP for the relocation of Tommy V Field, using the current form of the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between the town of Crested Butte and the school district, also came in slightly under budget, at $1,052,866.
He said the price was “based on the copy of the IGA that we currently have and if there are going to be any changes made to it than we’ll have to adjust accordingly.”
When board member Bill Powell asked why the price of the relocation might go up, and if it was likely, superintendent Jon Nelson said the IGA itself, which allows for the transfer of the Tommy V Field property to the school district, has been signed by both the district and the Town and most likely wouldn’t be changed.
But amendments to that IGA, including those that deal with warranties on work being done by the district, are still being finalized and could affect the price for the field relocation.
During the Tommy V Field design process, planners had considered installing lights at the field. School board president MJ Vosburg said, “I’m glad we didn’t decide to keep the lights in the design. That would have put us over budget.”
The general contractor sets a GMP with input from the architect after work is underway to ensure that the contractor – in the district’s case Grand Junction-based FCI Constructors Inc. – makes an acceptable profit, while the district keeps any cost savings that might come along. The district then decides whether to accept the contractor’s GMP or start negotiations.
FCI Constructors is contracted to get seven percent of the total cost of the project.
“Because these will last 18 months, we wanted to give some price protection to the district,” Nelson says. “The GMP helps us guarantee that we’re not going to get nailed by a bunch of large jumps in the cost of labor or materials or whatever it is.”
Based on Gibson’s recommendation, the board voted unanimously to accept the GMPs provided by the general contractor.

Board considers possibility of budget surplus

The understanding that there may be a budget surplus on some of the projects started a conversation among the board about how extra money should be handled after a campaign promise was made to keep budgeted funds with each school site.
The fear, the board agreed at the meeting, was that the public could perceive the transfer of funds from one school to another as favoritism toward a school by the district. It could also be viewed as taking the savings from one project to feed the excess of another.
“We had assumed that most of the concern was about going over budget. But how do we deal with money left over after we’ve done all of the things we said we were going to do?” Gibson asked. “My suggestion was to build a list of things that will be used district wide and other things that were never envisioned at each site and prioritize. Use the residual funds for those.”
Board member Anne Hausler pointed out that some people might want the district to pay off the debt from the bond sale that generated the $55 million for the district to use in the renovations.
She added, “And I think only if we’ve provided everything we promised [to each school] then we could maybe use the left over money for something that would benefit the whole district. But we need to demonstrate that everyone has had their needs met.”  
Vosburg echoed the view of the group that “any decision has to come to the board” so a “philosophical” judgment can be made about how available money is used.
Gibson told the board that they could expect the issue of allocating funds from a budget surplus as early as this fall.

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