The Saugerties Central School District’s Board of Education heard an update on its various capital projects last week, and while some are on schedule, others are faced with delays and rebid periods due to lack of contractor interest.
A capital outlay project for flooring at Charles M. Riccardi Elementary School was approved by the New York State Education Department (SED) early in 2021, with a projected completion date ahead of the 2021-22 school year. But that project did not receive any bids. An update was given during a meeting of the SCSD Board of Education held on Tuesday, June 21 by James Bouffard, senior architectural designer with Tetra Tech, a Pasadena, California-based consulting and engineering firm with offices around the globe.
“We met today with some of the district admin team to discuss potential options and ways that that can be handled, (with) a couple of different scenarios,” said Bouffard. “I’ll need to contact SED just to get their buy-in on a couple of potential options there, and then we’ll regroup and figure out what makes the most sense so that the district gets the most bang for their buck out of that.”
Asked whether it was unusual to not receive any bids for a facilities project, Jeff Andrews, a consultant with Albany-based BBL Construction Services, said it didn’t used to be. “It’s really not that common, but it is something we’re seeing more and more,” he said.
The presentation to the School Board described an “extraordinary confluence of events” impacting construction projects, including the War in Ukraine, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, material shortages, labor shortages, production and shipping delays, pricing volatility, and contractors who are just too busy with other projects.
“We had 97 contractors we had contacted for the work,” Andrews said. “We had people that walked through, and we got zero bids.”
That led consultants to discuss rethinking their approach.
“Some of it’s kind of an aspect where we can probably break out the scope a little bit,” Andrews said. “And instead of assigning it to say, one general contractor, it applies to a couple contractors and they have more opportunity for that scope.”
Bouffard said the ideal time to repackage and rebid the Riccardi project is this coming fall, with a plan to submit plans to the state around February 2023, with an eye on construction beginning over the summer break a few months later, and a closeout in November.
Ceilings, walls and floor leaks
Also discussed at the School Board meeting were elements of the district’s $22,000,390 tax-neutral districtwide facilities project, overwhelmingly approved by voters in December 2020. The average age of the district buildings is over 70 years, and leaks in the ceilings, walls and floors have wreaked havoc on exterior walls lined with stucco and beneath floors lined with cork. Exterior site work on crumbling pathways and other areas across the district are also a part of the overall scope of the project.
Roofing work for the project has been awarded to Voorheesville-based S&L Roofing, and that work is in the submittals process with the state. But delays and rebids are disrupting other portions of the project, and Bouffard said that they are looking into contracting with the state for some aspects, including the resurfacing of the Saugerties High School track, which could begin this coming September or October.
“That would certainly benefit folks using the track, especially come springtime,” Bouffard said.
What isn’t possible is expanding the amount of lanes on the track from six to eight, which has been discussed for nearly two decades, with supporters feeling it would allow the district to host large athletic events that often go to other school districts. The idea was considered during a $28 million facilities plan that completed in autumn 2008, but then-Superintendent Richard Rhau said the expansion would have been too expensive.
Bouffard said the idea was again raised for the current facilities project, and was again rejected.
“There was some conversation about it,” Bouffard said. “But it was ultimately deemed that to work with the existing structure…the cost of reconstructing the track to add the extra lanes on the outside was just going to be a very expensive cost. So it was not considered at this time.”
There is also hope that reconsidering how to approach the submission and bid process for the construction of a small stage at one end of the gymnasium at Grant D. Morse Elementary School and merging it into a bid set will help build interest in the project.
“As you recall, we made a collective decision to pull that out of the previous SED submission,” Bouffard said. “It’s a very important cornerstone of the capital project to achieve, so that’s being repackaged as we speak.”
Bouffard said the hope is to resubmit the plans for the stage to the SED in July of this year, and concurrently seek approval from the state for a building code variance. Then the stage would be merged with a larger rebid package likely to go out early in 2023.
Overall, the reach of the capital project is likely to change.
“Unfortunately not all the scope will be able to be achieved,” Bouffard said. “So it’s really finding the things that make the most sense at the highest need.”
The rebids also make an initial completion date of late summer 2023 for the capital project impossible.
“Looking at construction, pushing out a couple of summers,” Bouffard said. “We’ve worked with the district’s financial consultants to make sure that that’s doable and isn’t going to create some sort of hardship.”