Bidding is lower than expected for a Mechanicsburg area high school project

Phyllis Zimmerman for The Guardian

This week, the Mechanicsburg District School Board reviewed contractor bids for a planned building renovation project at Mechanicsburg District High School that district officials say came in well below the original projected costs.

Last month, Mechanicsburg school principals agreed to announce contractor bids for the high school building’s renovation, a project that district officials began discussing more than a year ago.

The project is separate from a $24 million expansion project currently underway at the school. The building was constructed in 1968, with additions and renovations in 1981 and 2001.

As it turned out, bids for the high school renovation plans totaled $39,449,015, including project material costs. Greg Longwell, the district’s COO/CFO, told The Sentinel Wednesday that the amount is about $5.1 million less than the district originally expected.

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Architectural renderings for the project submitted earlier this year included “light” renovations to the high school’s two-story classroom wings that will include new flooring, lighting, and paint in all rooms. Plans also included replacing the school’s roof and food service equipment and upgrading its mechanical systems, plumbing and electrical systems, security, and access to technology.

At the time, the project’s architect Brian Haines said projected costs had been brought down to between $45 million and $48 million by “strategizing how and where” the project’s money was spent.

The scope of the project was then revised after supervisor Mark Liddy said in August that the project’s estimated costs had risen by about 20% due to inflation.

In October, district officials offered options that lowered the estimated total project price of about $5 million to $48.5 million. Cost-cutting options approved included limiting the scope of kitchen and cafeteria renovations and repainting the high school roof rather than replacing it.

The school board is scheduled to vote on the overall project on December 13.

District officials remained undecided this week, however, about what option to make for the high school’s pool renovations. The choices were to replace or renovate the high school swimming pool. Replacing the complex would cost an estimated $7.8 million, while renovations would total $2.5 million.

Proposed renovations include raising the water level and replacing the filtration system and pool deck. The replacement would provide eight lanes for the pool but would require more design work.

Ultimately, the council decided to include the option to renovate the pool as an alternative tender in the area’s bidding advertisement.

“The last part of the high school (renovation project) is the new swimming pool option. We will continue to work on that option and offer this separately… If you add the cost of the renovation and the cost of a new pool together, we are still within our target project budget amount of $50, 000,000 dollars,” Longwell said Wednesday.

Construction project support

In other news, the Mechanicsburg District School Board Tuesday reviewed a proposed resolution authorizing contributions by the district to support a building construction project at the Cumberland Perry Technology and Career Center.

According to the resolution, the Center for Employment and Technology “desires” to undertake a construction renovation project to “improve” its facilities in Silver Spring Township at an estimated cost of $23.5 million. The resolution further stipulates that project expenses “shall be divided among (the center’s care) member school districts” in proportion to the five-year average student attendance for each district.

Longwell said that 98 Mechanicsburg students are currently enrolled in CPACTC and that the district’s proposed contribution to project costs “comes to the approximate amount of $141,000 annually.”

The Mechanicsburg School Board was supportive of the plan. The project will provide additional capacity for student enrollment, which will help alleviate existing waiting lists for a variety of programs at the CTC… The project will also enhance existing programs there.

School boards representing each of the member school districts in the center must agree to the same resolution before project work can proceed. The center is sponsored by 13 school districts in Cumberland, Perry, and York counties. Besides the Cumberland Valley, other Cumberland County sponsor areas include Big Spring, Camp Hill, East Pennsboro, the Mechanicsburg area, and South Middleton. West Shore School District is located in Cumberland and York counties.

CPACTC Managing Director Justin Brune told The Sentinel Monday that the building expansion and renovation project is necessary to “make sure our school has the facilities that can continue to provide jobs and technical programs for the next generation.”

Since 2011, CPACTC enrollment has increased by 40% to the current total of 1,270 with an additional 300 students remaining on the school’s wait list. Brune said the school is also seeking additional building space to start several new vocational programs such as pre-engineering, building and property management, and emergency management.

The school also plans additional room for several existing programs, including welding, automotive technology, auto collision, and advanced manufacturing.

The same resolution for CPACTC project funding contributions by member districts was approved by the Cumberland Valley School Board on November 14. Bruhn said Monday that he’s not sure which of the school’s member districts haven’t yet agreed to the decision.

The Mechanicsburg District School Board is expected to vote on the decision on December 13.

Brun said that if the decision to contribute is approved by all member provinces by December, the project could begin in the spring of 2024, followed by the gradual introduction of new programs in the fall of 2025.

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