By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The Havre school board voted 5-2 Tuesday night to seek bids this spring for a renovation of Blue Pony Stadium, opening the way for completion of the project this August.
The project, estimated to cost between $655,000 and $679,000, includes new aluminum bleachers on the north and south sides of the stadium, two underground warming rooms under the south bleachers, and a new restroom facility northeast of the field.
The project will expand the facility's seating from about 1,000 to about 2,200, the project's architect said last month.
Two board members voted against putting the project out for bids because the district is not requiring a minimum number of bidders.
School board member Joe Marino proposed requiring at least two qualified bids to ensure the district gets the best price possible for the project.
District clerk Ric Floren said that if the district required two bids and only one bid came in, it would have to be thrown out and the project would likely be set back a year.
"I'd rather slow the project than have our purses taken," Marino said.
Some board members disagreed.
"If there's only one and we don't like it, we can throw it out," board member Jim Heberley said. "Rather than hamstring ourselves now, I think we ought to let ourselves float along and see how many we get."
Board member Kathie Newell said she assumed there would be more than one bidder.
Floren said he has never known the district to only get one bidder on a project.
He also said there are safety concerns with the north bleachers that the district wants to take care of.
"We have a high liability on our current facility, and we want to eliminate that as soon as possible," said Floren, who sits on the district's safety committee.
According to HPS Superintendent Kirk 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.
School board member Todd Hanson supported Marino's motion to require at least two bids. He said he supports the renovation project but wants to make sure the district sends a message to contractors that it expects competitive bids.
Marino's proposal was voted down 2-5.
A second motion to send the project out to bid without imposing a minimum bid requirement passed 5-2, with Hanson and Marino voting no.
Board chair Denise Thompson said after the meeting that Marino's suggestion wasn't necessary.
"Our district has been doing this for a number of years and has contractors that know what they're doing and architects that know what they're doing and I don't think we change something that works very well, and that's why I voted for it," she said.
HPS Superintendent Kirk Miller said after the meeting that he understood Marino's concerns, but that there "isn't a doubt in my mind" that there will be more than one bid.
"I think we're going to generate a lot of interest in this project," he said.
About $450,000 of the project will be paid for out of the district's building reserve, district clerk Ric Floren told the board. In May of 2003, voters approved a levy to pay for the renovation and two other projects and that money goes into the building reserve.
The remaining $200,000 to $250,000 will be paid for with existing funds raised from a variety of sources like parking fees collected at the stadium, he said.
If the bids come in higher than the project estimate, the district can choose to drop one or more of the planned renovations, Floren said.
An inspection of the site will be held with interested bidders on March 16, and the deadline for receiving bids will be March 30 at 2 p.m. The bid will be awarded on April 13 and construction will begin on May 1, he said.
Final completion of the project is scheduled for Aug. 25, four days before the first scheduled home football game. A penalty of $750 for each day of construction after Aug. 25 will be included in the contract.
Floren said that even if some details of the stadium are not done by the first game, the facility will be usable.
"It wouldn't shut us down," he said.