U.L. Gordy Elementary School bids lower than expected

April 18, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Chambersburg Area School District officials opened a stack of packages Tuesday and found a $3 million surprise inside.

That is how much lower than expected the bids were for construction of a new U.L. Gordy Elementary School.

"We were under by $3,073,618 ... or 17.4 percent under bid," Business Manager Rick Vensel said. The district set a maximum of $17,821,170 for construction costs, but the low bids on eight contracts totaled $14,737,552, Vensel said.

That also will drop the overall cost of the school, which includes "soft costs" such as architectural services, equipment and furnishings, from the more than $21 million cap to about $18 million.

"It's absolutely phenomenal, and we had good bidders, competitive bidders," Vensel said. "Market factors just seemed to be in our favor."


Vensel said the district benefited from a softening construction market. The lowest of three bids for general contracting was $8,016,000 by ECI Construction of Dillsburg, Pa.

The other low bids for plumbing, heating and air conditioning, electrical and other facets of the project added about $6.7 million. The board could award contracts at its April 25 meeting, Vensel said.

"It gives us promise that the high school will come in under bid" in October, Superintendent Joseph Padasak said. If that happens, there could be a ripple effect, meaning greater savings down the road and an additional elementary school, he said.

The school board has approved a $70 million renovation and expansion of Chambersburg Area Senior High School. If bidding on that project is favorable, Padasak said it is conceivable the district could have enough money left from the $116 million in construction debt it incurred in 2004 to complete the high school and build a new Grandview Elementary.

Otherwise, the district might have to borrow more money, perhaps triggering an Act 1 referendum, he said. Under the act, school budgets can be subject to voter approval if a proposed tax increase exceeds an inflationary index set by the state.

Built in 1961, the existing Gordy has one classroom in grades kindergarten through fifth grade and a capacity of 175 students, according to district figures. The new Gordy will have four classrooms per grade and a capacity of 600 students, Vensel said.

Gordy will close in June and be demolished to make way for the new building on Miller Street. The new school is scheduled to open by January 2009.

Padasak said he is "95 percent sure" the current Gordy students will attend class at the new Fayetteville Elementary School this fall. Students from the recently closed Duffield Elementary School also will attend Fayetteville, he said.

Fayetteville, which is nearly identical in design to Gordy, is under construction, but scheduled to open for 2007-08. Fayetteville also is costing the district about $14 million to build.

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