EAST MONTPELIER – About four months ago, the estimated cost for the second year of the Central Washington District’s five-year capital improvement plan was just under $2.3 million. Today, it’s north of $3.7 million, and school officials say, that number is subject to change even more.
There have been two changes totaling about $1.4 million in recent months. The board approved a five-year plan on June 15. With the first year of work completed, the initial budget for the second year was put into action.
This is a full year ahead of the schedule outlined in the capital plan, which was the product of a months-long process and reflects an attempt to proactively identify and address the most urgent facilities needs in the five-city, six-school district that U-32 middle and high schools establish.
The first round of projects—mostly on the U-32—was completed in a brisk fashion over the summer.
The work on the high school roof has been completed. So was the planned rainwater drainage project. There are new bunkers on the U-32 softball court; Two new panels were installed; Two of the restrooms have been renovated. Sanitation work has been completed at the hockey field.
Add to this improvements regarding lavatory access at Rumney Memorial School in Middlesex; And raising the level of ventilation for the kindergarten in Calais Primary School.
Facilities manager Chris O’Brien told board members that the capital plan is off to a strong start.
“I feel very lucky,” he said, noting that other regions are struggling to complete projects at a time when the demand for contractors is high.
With year one essentially complete, the board is focusing on year two — a process that business director Susan Jan said on Thursday is well ahead of schedule.
Regardless of the rising costs, Gan said, the region is on track to solicit bids for a pair of expensive projects later this year.
“It prepares us for a larger group of contractors looking for work next summer,” she said.
Planning began for the second year before the Council adopted the five-year plan. The board initially set the budget for projects reported at less than $2.3 million on May 18.
At the time, best estimates suggested a proposal to reconfigure the entrance at U-32; resurfacing of the two largest high school parking lots; Replacing sidewalks during the fiscal year that begins in July will cost just over $1.6 million.
A month later, the board received a revised estimate that pushed the projected cost of the project to approximately $2.1 million. The Council has included this number, which should not be exceeded, in a proposal authorizing the necessary work to be carried out to put the parking lot project up for auction.
As a result, the interim budget for the second year of the capital plan has ballooned to nearly $2.8 million, which is where it left off as Wednesday night’s meeting approaches.
By the time the meeting ended, the budget had swelled to $3.7 million.
Gan said the $1 million increase does not reflect a bad estimate, but a significant expansion of the scope of work to replace the ceiling-mounted HVAC units on the U-32.
According to Gann, the initial estimate of $250,000 factored in a “partial replacement,” while the new figure — nearly $1.3 million — assumes that all seven of the school’s HVAC units will be replaced.
Board members were told that these units were nearing the end of their useful lives; The seller who made it is no longer working, finding parts to fix is a problem.
As they did with the parking lot project in June, the Board authorized the work necessary to solicit bids for the project at a cost of approximately $1.3 million. This figure includes 10% for contingency and 25% in “soft costs” associated with preparing documents ready for bidding.
The vast majority of the money will be spent on replacing the U-32’s HVAC units, but the project also includes replacing the high school boiler’s circulating pump and damper at the air handling unit at Doty Memorial School in Worcester.
Council members briefly discussed using the remainder–about $795,000–of the federal pandemic funding the district received to cover increased upgrade-related expenses for 20 years.
Although no final decision has been made, President Fleur Diaz-Smith suggested that the ventilation upgrade would be a good use of the one-time money.
“It’s exactly the kind of thing the money was supposed to give,” Gan agreed.
david.delcore @ timesargus.com