Watson: Interviews with contractors under way, AHS construction should start when football ends

Published 2:01 am Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Andalusia City Schools Superintendent Ted Watson is in the process of interviewing potential contractors for a massive project to renovate both the auditorium and the stadium at Andalusia High School.

Last month, the school board was set to open bids for the proposed project, but received none. In an earlier bid process – for the auditorium half of the project – the lowest bid was approximately $1.1 million higher than a professional estimator had predicted, and did not include architects’ fees.

“The next step, as far as the law is concerned, is to solicit a contractor with whom well be happy and who we are convinced can do the project,” Watson said. The school board can negotiate prices on the project.

The day after the bid opening that wasn’t, Watson said, he met with officials at the Alabama Building Commission to determine the proper steps for proceeding.

“He said we had already hired an architect who knew the rules, and we would be in good shape if we listened to him,” Watson told members of the Andalusia City Council Tuesday night.

Since that time, he said, several interviews have been conducted. He has been joined by the architect and by Andalusia Director of Planning and Development Andy Wiggins.

“We’re interviewing companies to see what they might be able to do for us,” he said, adding that he has more interviews scheduled for Friday.

“We want to talk to as many as we can who might be able to get this thing within the scope of what is acceptable,” Watson said. “We will put prices together as soon as we can.”

“For a little over two years now, all we’ve really wanted is a real price,” he said. “Good, bad, or ugly, we’ll know where to go after that.”

Once a cost can be determined, the city will do a bond issue to secure funding, pledging proceeds from its education sales tax toward the repayment.

Watson said it is hoped that work can begin soon after football season ends, assuming the AHS Bulldogs have a good run in the state playoffs, which begin Friday.

Mayor Earl Johnson said the city used a process similar to the one Watson described in renovating the downtown theater.

“This gives us some latitude, with more room to negotiate for a good price,” he said. “If you’ll recall, when we got bids on the movie theater, the bid was $3 million.

“We only had one bid, which we rejected, which allowed us to begin negotiating with that contractor. By doing that, we built that project for $1.4 million. We saved $1.6 million by being able to negotiate directly with the contractor.”