Bids for renovations to the HVAC system at Carroll County High School came in about $600,000 higher than anticipated, but that won’t stop the work from taking place.
On June 10, the Carroll County Board of Supervisors announced a $5 million loan from USDA to be used for a HVAC system at Carroll County High School, as well as natural gas service at the school and a new STEM lab at CCHS. Terms of the loan through the federal funding agency were announced at 40 years with 3.5 percent interest.
During the Carroll County Industrial Development Authority’s (IDA) June 26 meeting, the Authority approved a motion to borrow $3 million with no interest rate from the county’s board of supervisors. Dennis Cole, Clerk of the Works for the project, said the interim loan is necessary to move the project forward since bids are in for the HVAC system, but not for the STEM lab or natural gas work. USDA requires bids for all three phases of the project to come in before closing on the loan. The interim loan from supervisors will allow the HVAC project to get started.
Cole said bids for the HVAC portion of the project came in June 25. New Atlantic Contracting placed the low bid of $4,597,000. Competing bids of $4,679,000 and $4,725,500 were placed by Triad Builders and J.G. Coram Construction, respectively. Bidders were also asked to provide the number of days it would take them to complete the project. Again, New Atlantic came in with the low number, at 210 days. The other two bids came in within 20 days of New Atlantic’s bid, Cole said.
“We felt like we had some pretty decent bids on this. It was higher than what we anticipated,” said Cole, noting the project cost for HVAC, natural gas and a STEM lab was originally estimated at $4,225,000. “Right now we are $4.6 (million) out, and the total loan value is $5 million.”
Without bids for natural gas and a STEM lab in, Cole said the project is still considered under budget by USDA. But even if the total project does do over $5 million, USDA appears willing to help Carroll officials finance the project.
“In my conversations with USDA they have told us, ‘We hear what is going on, we know that perhaps the numbers for the HVAC system have come in a little higher than what you anticipated. At the end of the day, when you bid all three projects and if you are more than the $5 million, we will come back to you and we will do an amendment to your loan to cover those costs.’ So we are good. They will help us out,” Cole said. “That won’t happen until we get those other two bids in. All we are trying to do is move forward with the project.”
The project is a little different than any the IDA has done in the past, Cole said. Since the IDA can’t build on property that it doesn’t own, part of an approved resolution with the board of supervisors and Carroll County School Board calls for the IDA to lease Carroll County High School in order for the work to take place there.
“At the end of the day when everything is said and done, the IDA will turn around and give that lease back to the school system and then it becomes their property again,” Cole said of a resolution passed during the IDA’s meeting. “It helps us get money from USDA and also helps us bring everybody together from three boards working on the same project. “
IDA Chairman Richard Slate also signed off on a notice of award to New Atlantic Contracting and a notice to proceed during the June 26 meeting. The notice to proceed took effect June 28 and gave New Atlantic 210 days to finish the HVAC work. The notice also required New Atlantic to have heat available throughout the high school on or before Oct. 31. The final date of completion for HVAC work will be Jan. 26, 2014.
IDA member Barry Hicks asked what happens if the project isn’t completed within 210 days. Cole said his biggest concern was making sure the contractor provides heat throughout the high school by Oct. 31.
“I will do everything in our power and make sure the contractor does everything in their power in order to have the heat on or before Oct. 31. We are hoping for a mild winter to begin with. After Oct. 31 it is going to be a mess over there anyway,” Cole said. “So whether they finish in six days or six months is not going to really make a whole lot of difference for the conditioning of the school. It will make a difference in the look of the school, it will make a difference in the traffic pattern of the school. There are things that will be an inconvenience, but it was going to be an inconvenience anyway.”
Cole said the school system has already expressed to the contractor how much it will mean to the school system and students to have air conditioning in by the spring. He said one reason he believed the HVAC work came in over budget is because the school system has asked the contractor to do its work from 4 p.m.-12 a.m.
When the Phase III renovations of CCHS and Carroll County Middle School were bid in 2011, the HVAC work was an alternate to the contract. A bid came in at that time between $3.6 million and $3.7 million, Cole said.
“We knew it was going to be somewhere around $4 (million). We were hoping it wouldn’t go over $4 (million), but obviously it did. We think part of that is we are asking them to do the majority of work during school, and the second part is we are asking them to do all their labor from 4 p.m.-12 a.m.,” said Cole. “I think there is probably a premium in there that we are paying for that labor, but that is the only option to get it done.”
Carroll officials don’t believe it’s reasonable to wait another year to fix the HVAC system. There are too many things that could go wrong with the system, which has been in place since CCHS originally opened in 1969.
“If we waited another six to eight months before we got in there, we could be looking for another place to go and have school with a major leak out there. And once we have a major leak, we have no heat at all,” Cole said.