Project costs exceed estimates by $500,000
By Angie Landsverk
The Weyauwega-Fremont School Board unanimously approved bids totaling $1.23 million for HVAC updates at Weyauwega Elementary School when it met on Monday, Jan. 25.
Board member Dan Kohl was absent.
Bids for the project, which is scheduled to take place next summer, came in higher than anticipated.
“The bids came in substantially higher than we thought they would,” said Charlie Schneider, of Cooperative Educational Service Agency 10, in Chippewa Falls.
Both CESA 10 and ATS&R, an architectural firm based in Minneapolis, are assisting the school district with this project.
CESA 10 is serving as the project manager.
Board member Tim Baehnman said, “Five-hundred thousand is a lot of money to be off” and asked Schneider if some companies bid high on the project on purpose.
Schneider said there are two pieces to the higher costs.
The first one is the current construction economy.
“We kind of saw it coming,” he said.
Schneider told the board there are numerous construction projects scheduled in the state and many school referendums slated for this spring.
Some companies did not bid on the district’s project because they are too busy.
Other companies bid even though they are also busy, but in some cases, bid high, he said.
That is because there is a shortage of HVAC workers, Schneider explained.
When a company has to hire someone with less HVAC experience, that requires the need for another employee to oversee that new employee more, he said.
That also increases the company’s costs.
Schneider also told the board that there are some aspects of the base bid and alternates which were not part of the initial $700,000 estimate for the project but did become part of it after ATS&R representatives walked through the school and added them to the proposal.
He described those aspects as being parts of the current system which are not currently failing but due to their age, ATS&R recommended replacing now as part of the overall project.
“I apologize for being off by a large amount,” Schneider said.
Board member Kurt Duxbury said it is unfortunate they guess at what numbers will be.
“I think we should maybe get out of the guessing game of how much things cost. It stirs emotions,” he said. “We have no idea until we take it out to bid.”
In the future, the district should avoid guessing, Duxbury said.
“These are real numbers. It would have been good if we hadn’t had a pretend number. This is how much it will cost to do HVAC,” he said.
Duxbury further said he is not questioning the work of CESA 10.
The bids approved by the board include $1,025,700 from B & P Mechanical for mechanical, $95,400 from Van Ert Electrical for electrical and $112,560 from Energy Control & Design for controls.
Schneider said each bid was the lowest for its particular aspect of the project.
He also said each company is “good, reputable.”
District Administrator Scott Bleck said CESA 10’s approach to the project was “spot on” as it worked on assembling the request for proposals and seeking bids.
The school district is debt free, and Drew Niehans, the district’s business manager, is working on funding scenarios for the project.
He said the district has a “weird flexibility” because it has a large fund balance while also being a negatively aided district.
The districts plans to pay for the project by using around $425,000 out of Fund 41, which is a capital improvement fund, and approximately $900,000 out of the General Fund, which would include a portion out of the fund balance, Niehans said.
While the project’s cost came in higher, the district is in a position “to absorb it and absorb it all and still not have it harm the district financially,” he said.