BOE seeking new bids combining 2 AHS projects

Published 12:59 am Tuesday, July 25, 2017

In an effort to get a better idea of how much two major renovation projects at Andalusia High School will ultimately cost, school board members agreed Monday to let bids for completing both projects.

Earlier this month, they opened bids for major renovations to the AHS auditorium, and were stunned to find the low bid was approximately $1 million more than anticipated.

Russell Construction of Alabama, based in Montgomery, was the apparent low bidder with a base bid of $4.95 million, and a total bid of $5.09 million when alternate projects were included.

School officials originally planned to do the projects in stages, beginning with the auditorium. But yesterday, they agreed to spend the 60 days in which they have to act on the current bids working the their architect to get a price on the total project. The auditorium bids were opened July 13.

Superintendent Ted Watson said the board will let bids for the total project to see if there are potential savings in economies of scale.

Watson said he hopes the board can partner with the City of Andalusia, which provided in-kind work on the board’s most recent construction projects, including site prep.

“We are going to try to outline what specifically they might be able to do to reduce the overall cost of these projects,” Watson said. “At the same time, we are going to ask our architect if there is any value engineering that can be done to bring the project in under something that is a little more budget friendly.”

Watson recommended that the board explore all possible avenues before awarding a bid.

“This is an expensive project and we want to make sure we get it right,” he said. “We want the product to be a good product, but that the same time, we want to be fiscally responsible.”

The auditorium project includes demolition of the current stage area, expanding that end of the building, new seats, acoustical improvements and a new sound system, as well as new restroom facilities that would serve both the auditorium and the gymnasium.

The bids do not include work on the stadium, which will be the second phase of construction. That project includes a new pressbox, new home bleachers, moving the field, and new facilities for softball and visiting players.

The total pricing is especially important because the board is working with city officials to secure bond financing for the construction.

In May, the board asked the city to secure $6 million in funding for the projects. At the time, the city had approximately $1 million in education sales tax proceeds that had been set aside for the project, and $750,000 had been secured through fundraising and other sources.

The bond will be repaid with a portion of the half-cent sales tax collected by the city on behalf of Andalusia City Schools. Early estimates, determined when the board hired a professional estimator, were that the auditorium project would cost $3.5 to $3.8 million, and the stadium project would cost $4.2 million.