An increase in costs to begin a voter-approved repair to the natatorium took Fredonia Central School board members by surprise at a regular meeting Tuesday night.
In May, Fredonia school district voters went to the polls and voted on board members, the budget, and Proposal No. 2, a wall reconstruction project in the natatorium.
Superintendent Paul DiFonzo explained the project must be completed for safety reasons. At that time, it was believed the project, repairing a hole in a brick wall and making improvements to the pool and other features, would cost an estimated maximum of $200,000.
OBSERVER?Photo by Shirley Pulawski
Superintendent Paul DiFonzo said the board was surprised by the high cost of the bids for the school’s natatorium wall repair.
The proposal passed voter scrutiny, but the project hasn't begun. After some time, the school obtained a permit from the state, which DiFonzo announced was granted at a board meeting on Sept. 11.
A bidding process was opened, and a total of nine contractors showed interest in the project, with seven formally submitting bids. One bid was rejected because the information wasn't filed clearly or completely.
Of the six acceptable bids, the three lowest came in significantly higher than estimated costs.
The bid favored by the school's engineering firm came from Nichter Construction, and was in line with several other of the lower bids at about $226,000, which Business Administrator John Forbes said does not include several other costs such as fees. Forbes said the total for the entire project was more likely to be about $230,000.
The board first learned of the increase in estimated costs at the meeting Tuesday night. "I'm a bit disappointed at the cost here," DiFonzo told the board.
Steven Sigmund, engineer with R. W. Larson, the company which provided the original estimates for the construction, said the problem is with the ceiling. He explained the ceiling must be removed to complete the project, and reusing the existing ceiling materials would cost about as much or more as it would cost to replace the ceiling with new materials. However, it was not explained by Sigmund why the original estimate made by Larson was so much lower than bids the district received.
When the district asked for taxpayer approval of a $200,000 expenditure, DiFon-zo said he believed the request was realistic and would cover the project fully, and with some room to spare. "We thought that there was plenty of money in (the amount proposed) so any kind of change orders or incidentals that may come up would be covered," he explained.
"I asked Mr. Sigmund to go back and look at the original projection and try and let me know exactly why the estimate is so different than what we've gotten," DiFonzo said.
Board member Michael Bobseine reacted to the news of the increased cost by asking, "Where are we going to get $30,000?" He then asked Sigmund what would happen if the project wasn't implemented.
"The building would decay," Sigmund told the board, and explained the materials inside the structure were exposed to the elements. Drywall could mold, steel structural materials could rust and other problems would be a risk. Further, in May when the board went to the voters, DiFonzo said the disrepair posed safety problems.
Several board members asked if any cuts could be made to the project to reduce costs. "What can you take out?" Asked member Edith Byrne. Sigmund replied no significant reductions could be made that he could foresee.
After many questions were asked, including about what costs might be covered by insurance, board member Thomas Hawk said he felt not enough information was available to make a decision on the bid. "I don't feel comfortable passing this (resolution to accept a bid) this evening," he said.
Forbes said tabling the decision until the next meeting on Nov. 13 would give him time to look into the financial details and what amount insurance might provide, which was only believed to be around $18,000.
After the meeting, DiFonzo told the OBSERVER, "It was a surprise and we're just going to have to work through that issue."
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