The new middle school is on track to be completed in August 2016 by Womack, Lewis and Smith Construction, which was chosen to do the job.
When discussion on the bid began at the meeting, School Board member Michael Geist made a motion to not accept either of the two bids received. He asked the project be put out for bid again to get more choices or possibly a lower cost.
School Board member Kelly Marlow seconded Geist’s motion and the board discussed the cost of the project for more than 15 minutes. Geist and Marlow expressed their concern over having only two bids for the project.
Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo said there’s more construction being done in the Atlanta and metro areas, so not as many companies want to bid on school projects that require additional regulations.
He said this project marks a shift in the economy and in construction costs since the district last called for bids, and said Cherokee and metro Atlanta “have been very spoiled.”
“Clearly, costs are going up for building schools, and lots of schools are being built — not just in Cherokee, but throughout metro Atlanta. The current construction industry standard for public schools is $173 per square foot,” Petruzielo said. “The lowest proposal (we received) would cost about $151 per square foot.”
Following comments from the superintendent, School Board member Rob Usher asked Geist to rescind his motion so a new motion to accept a bid could be made.
“I don’t believe that we’re going to get a better price,” Usher said.
Usher made a new motion to accept Womack, Lewis and Smith Construction, Geist seconded the motion, and the board unanimously selected the company.
Cherokee Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo said the “state-of-the-art” replacement Dean Rusk would have similar features to the new E.T. Booth Middle School that opened last year and the replacement Teasley Middle School scheduled for completion this August.
“The facility encompasses 255,037 square feet,” Petruzielo said at the meeting. “The design includes a cyber café, a media center, global learning center, computer labs, gymnasium, cafetorium, art and music rooms.”
The project is part of the district’s Five-Year Facility Plan for new/replacement schools, additions and renovations, and construction on the approved project is expected to begin this month.
Petruzielo said the need for a replacement Dean Rusk to keep up with technology and rising enrollment was identified years ago, and the cost was approved by voters through 2011 Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenue.
“For those who like to act as though, somehow, our growth has stopped, we have been adding for the last five years well over 500 kids a year,” he said. “That means every two years, there’s another thousands kids that need to be accommodated in school.”
The replacement Dean Rusk is designed to accommodate 1,600 students. Once the new school is completed, the old building will be repurposed to relieve overcrowding at neighboring Sequoyah High School in the Hickory Flat community.
Womack, Lewis and Smith Construction was given the highest possible score in the district’s evaluation of construction bids, with 260 out of 260 possible points.
Cooper & Co. General Contractor Inc. also submitted a bid, receiving 255 of the 260 possible points, and priced the project $2 million higher than Womack, Lewis and Smith Construction.
One other company was expected to make a bid, but the district did not receive a proposal from Evergreen Construction Company.
Also during the meeting, the board was given an update from bond underwriter Bryce Holcomb of Citigroup Global Markets.
Holcomb said Citigroup was able to get the district its lowest interest rates since 2001, because of the CCSD’s strong financials, reputation and clean audits.
“This is real tax dollar savings,” Holcomb said.