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July 7, 2013

$20+ million bid for CHS approved

Project comes in over budget; board looking to trim costs

Work on the new Cullman High School is officially underway, though the project could cost more than officials had originally projected. But, the board hopes to rework the back half of the design to institute additional cost savings in future phases.

The low bid by Decatur-based Baggette Construction came in at $20.1 million, and has been approved by the board. Officials expect that amount to increase to approximately $22 million once all other associated fees and expenses are combined. The bids were extremely close, with only 4 percent difference between the top and bottom bids.

“We’ve had a number of meetings about finances, and the bids came in a little over budget,” superintendent Dr. Jan Harris said.

Compared to the initial projections, the final bid came in approximately $1.6 million over the original budgeted amount.

The board split the funding for the project into two separate bonds, and systemwide finance officer Russell Raney said that approach should allow for additional time to try and trim expenses in other areas to get the cost closer to the original estimate. Officials hope to decrease the cost by approximately 5 percent if possible.

“The beauty of delaying the second bond issue means we still have some time,” he said. “We’ll look it over very closely the next few weeks to see how much we can bring it down with value engineering ... We’re going to look at it and come back next month and see how much we believe we can save.”

Despite the price increase, Harris said the system is in good enough financial shape to still move forward with the project. The system has an approximate three-month operating balance in reserves, and new revenue from a countywide half-cent sales tax is expected to cover the majority of new debt service from high school construction.

An additional $400,000 in cash flow will also be made available next year, when the debt service from construction of the Cullman Primary School rolls off. Combining both sources — cash flow from former Primary School debt and the new half-cent revenue — should more than cover the proposed payment with additional funds left over.

“We’re only going to use $150,000 of that $400,000, and put the rest in the general fund,” Raney said.

The first phase of demolition at the high school campus will remove the administration building, guidance building, media center and J Building. In their place a new two-story, 68,000-square-foot academic building will be built. The academic building will include two floors of classrooms, a media center, cafe, commons, administration space and a multipurpose facility. The bottom level classrooms will be reinforced to meet storm shelter standards, meaning they can be used as shelter in the event of a tornado or powerful storm.

The J Building will be replaced with a two-story, 22,000-square-foot fine arts building. A new auditorium lobby will be built and the main auditorium renovation will also be done at this time. The A and B buildings will remain in use until phase I construction is complete.

Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.

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