By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Havre Public Schools will renovate Blue Pony Stadium this summer even though the lone bid came in about $57,000 higher than the project's preliminary cost estimate, the Havre school board decided Tuesday night.
The board voted 6-0 to accept the bid of $736,000 by Havre contractor Clausen & Sons Inc.
The extra cost will probably be covered by a combination of donations, parking fees, rent from Montana State University-Northern, and money from the district's building reserve fund, district clerk Ric Floren told the board.
"We're quite pleased with the bid price - think it's quite competitive - and are especially pleased with the fact that it is going to a local contractor and all local (subcontractors)," Floren said this morning.
The stadium project includes new aluminum bleachers on the north and south sides of the stadium, two warming rooms under the south bleachers, and a new restroom northeast of the field.
In January the project architect estimated the renovation would cost between $655,000 and $679,000. With concrete ramps and sidewalks figured in at the architect's recommendation, the estimated cost rose to $692,000 Floren said.
The $676,491 the district originally intended to use for the project included $462,164 from the district's building reserve -about 70 percent of the cost - and another $214,327 from a combination of corporate sponsors, rent from MSU-Northern, and money raised from parking fees at the stadium and by the Havre Public Schools Foundation.
In an April 7 memo, Floren said the extra $56,509 could be raised by extending the use of proceeds from parking, corporate sponsorship and rentals until 2009 - one year longer than originally planned - and by taking additional money from the district's building reserve fund.
Floren said taking the money from the building reserve fund should not affect the district's ability to pay for other planned projects like the HHS auditorium renovation.
In a letter to the district dated April 6, the architect said the bid was higher than the original estimate because steel prices have jumped between 6 and 28 percent since Jan. 1. The architect, Lowell Springer, projected another increase in steel prices in the near future.
That might price HPS out of the project if it waits, HPS Superintendent Kirk Miller told school board members. Miller recommended they accept the bid and move forward with the project.
The district could have decided to do the project without the north bleachers and sidewalks, bringing the cost down to $617,157, or it could have rejected the Clausen & Sons bid and started over, according to Floren's April 7 memo to Miller.
The board members followed Miller's recommendation with little discussion.
Board member Joe Marino said he thought the bid amount was fair.
At its February meeting, the board voted 5-2 to seek bids for the project after voting down Marino's proposal to require a minimum of two qualified bids for the project to ensure the district received a competitive price.
At the time, district officials said they were confident there would be more than one bid, and told the board that rejecting a bid might push the project back a year.
The board voted down Marino's proposal 2-5. Board member Todd Hanson also voted to require a minimum of two bids.
On Tuesday night Marino said there was technically more than one bid. Two other companies picked up bid packets but did not submit bids.
"In essence we've had three bids for this project - two no-bids and one bid," he told the board.
Marino said doing half the project might not take care of the safety issues the district has said exist on the north bleachers.
According to Miller, the structure of the north bleachers is sound, but the wooden platform boards have been rotting. The district replaces rotting board each year after doing an inspection, he said in February.
Hanson said after the meeting he also thinks the price was fair.
"Even though I would have preferred to have a couple of bids for comparative purposes, I'm confident that what we got in the end from this local bidder was a competitive bid based on current market forces," Hanson said.
"I'm not so sure that we would have gained anything had we reopened the bidding process," he added.
Hanson said he also likes the fact that the additional funds required will be taken from several different sources.
Board chair Denise Thompson said after the meeting that the community has been backing the project for years, and that it's time to get it done.
"Football's a big draw for our community ... and this project has been something we've needed to have done for many years now," she said.
Board member Teresa Miller said she doesn't take spending more money lightly, but that the reality is that prices continue to rise.
"Delaying it until we have more money isn't fiscally responsible," she said.
Board member Kathie Newell said the whole community will benefit from the stadium, and that the board's vote may ultimately save the district money.
"In my opinion, if you're expending the effort and the dollars now, it's probably going to be cheaper to do the whole project now rather than to do it piecemeal," she said.
Board members Judy Bricker and Jim Heberly were not present for the vote.
Demolition on the current stadium is set to begin May 1. The renovations are slated to be done by mid-August.
The board took care of some other business Tuesday night.
It voted 5-0 to approve revisions to the district's science curriculum.
Andy Carlson, HPS curriculum assessment specialist and a member of the team that reviewed the curriculum, told the board that there are no changes to the curriculum in grades five through 12. In the earlier grades the team "filled in holes" in the curriculum to bring it into alignment with state standards, Carlson said after his presentation to the board. For example, the team felt the existing science curriculum didn't deal sufficiently with the idea of heat and added items to the list of learning goals that form the basis of classroom instruction.
In the fall teachers will receive an updated curriculum guide and any materials they need to teach the added concepts, Carlson said.
The board voted 6-0 to authorize the purchase of two new school buses from Hartley's School Buses Inc. in Rugby, N.D., for $120,253. The money will come from the district's bus reserve budget.
Floren said the buses will replace two older buses in the district's fleet. School buses in the district are usually replaced every 10 years, he said.