The current Meadow Bridge Elementary School building is shown prior to students arriving for classes in August 2021. A second round of bids to construct a new Meadow Bridge Regional PK-12 School was opened on Thursday.

A second round of construction bids was opened Thursday for Meadow Bridge Regional PK-12 School.

According to Tim Payton, director of operations for Fayette County Schools, bids were opened at the Fayette County Schools central office on Oct. 7.

The apparent low bidder for Phase 1 work of the new school, which will combine students from Meadow Bridge elementary and high schools, was Swope Construction, with a bid of $9,960,000. The lone other bidder was Danhill Construction at $10,850,000.

When built, the projected enrollment for PK-12 will be around 450 students, Payton said. Plans call for the entire construction to be completed by the fall of 2023.

The new lowest bid won't be official until, if and when, the state School Building Authority signs off on it, then the bid package gets approval from the Fayette County Board of Education.

According to Payton, all documents have to be submitted to the SBA within 72 hours of the bid opening. That time frame went until Wednesday of this week.

The SBA will "look at the bids and make sure the process was followed properly," Payton said. If the SBA gives its approval, the Fayette County Board of Education can then "agree or disagree to enter into a contract with them (Swope)," Payton said. Payton said Friday the item is expected to be on the agenda for the local board of education on Oct. 26.

While in the area Tuesday for ribbon-cuttings for two recent FCS renovation projects, Ben Ashley, the SBA's director of architectural services, said the agency needs to "make sure that, with everything that comes in, all the boxes are checked. It's really kind of a formality. We don't anticipate anything. The contractor has done a lot of great work for us all around the state. In fact, they're on our biggest project (the Herbert Hoover project)."

Payton said both of the Meadow Bridge bids came in under the Phase 1 target, which was in the $11 million range.

In December 2019, the SBA awarded $20 million to Fayette County Schools to design and build the new school in the southeastern end of Fayette County.

The first round of bids came in high. At the time, the project bids considered were based on one overall bid for the entire scope of the project, rather than a phased approach.

According to a report earlier in 2021 by HD Media's Ryan Quinn, original architectural estimates projected a $17 million price tag for the school, but the original lowest bid was around $24 million.

Swope Construction was the low bidder at $24,478,000, and Danhill Construction bid $25,253,000.

Supply chain issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic were among the issues prompting the higher-than-expected bids, HD Media reported.

School officials and McKinley Architecture and Engineering opted to redesign the project and seek bids again. Among the changes in the design were removal of a tiered roof with "clerestory" windows, which are designed to bring in more daylight. A flat roof will be used instead. Payton also said Friday that there is a change in the new design in the type of HVAC equipment which will be utilized. "We were going to use a variable refrigerated system before, which would have been great," he said. "We're using rooftop units instead with ducting, which is what we have on every other school. It's going to be modern equipment. It's still going to efficient."

The overall scope of the original design remains, he said. "We didn't change the footprint at all. The square footage that was bid the first time around is the same square footage that was bid this time around."

"We were pleased with the process," he added. "We had two viable bids."

Payton said the school system has worked with Swope and Danhill in the past and "had good experiences with both of them. Both of them have done good work for us."

Swope most recently performed the last round of Phase 2 renovations in recent projects at Fayetteville and Valley pk-8s and Oak Hill and Midland Trail high schools, while Danhill completed the auditorium renovation at Fayetteville the year prior to that.

Payton said he and FCS Superintendent Gary Hough called Meadow Bridge High Principal Stacy White and Meadow Bridge Elementary Principal Mark Gladwell after the bid opening to let them know "we have a good bid" and apprise them of a timeline for the coming months.

Phase 1 construction will be centered on the high school area and will focus on renovations to the existing 'new gym' and construction of the new high school wing, which will conclude some of the area of the current baseball field and will cause reorientation of that facility. Phase 1 work will require little demolition. "Mostly it's just building," said Payton. "We're not tearing anything down right now. They'll be some demolition in the renovation of the gymnasium. Mostly it's renovating the gym and building the high school wing."

Payton hopes to have a pre-construction meeting during the third full week of November, followed by groundbreaking in the first week of December. If that falls into place, Phase 1 construction can begin this winter. "There's a lot that can be done inside (beginning soon after groundbreaking)," he said. "We'd have to leave the gym floor basically alone, the gymnasium part itself (to allow current sports seasons to conclude)."

Parking in the area will be affected somewhat. "It's going to be a construction zone for a while, so everything's going to be affected." The Meadow Bridge construction will mirror in some respects the recent renovations at other county schools. "It will be inconvenient for a while, probably about two years. But then those two years will be past and we'll have a nice, new facility and moving into it."

Phase 2 will be demolition of the existing high school and building the elementary wing in that spot, and Phase 3 will feature site cleanup revolving around "peripheral buildings that aren't going to be used any more."

"We're going to get down the road in this process a little bit and just watch to see how the market goes, how prices go, and then we'll get it out there," Payton said concerning seeking bids for the later phases. Bids will likely be due sometime in May 2022.

If the project moves forward as planned, there will be no need to move students and teachers into mobile classrooms. "Once the new high school wing is built, then we'll move into it," Payton said. "And then the old high school will be taken down, and then the elementary wing will be built and we'll move into that, then we'll take down the (old) elementary building."

He said the aim is to break ground on Phase 2 and 3 right after Phase 1 is completed, which should "substantially" be by July 2022.

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, supply chain issues have eased off some, depending on the type of materials. "Some have, some haven't," said Payton. "Some prices have come down, some have not."

While admitting the project is on a "tight deadline," Payton says, "I'm ready to get it started."

Email: skeenan@register-herald.com or follow on Twitter @gb_scribe

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