Dimeo picked to build high schools

Posted 4/11/24

Following the opening of bids for the construction of new Toll Gate and Pilgrim High Schools last Wednesday and lengthy interviews with the four contractors …

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Dimeo picked to build high schools


Following the opening of bids for the construction of new Toll Gate and Pilgrim High Schools last Wednesday and lengthy interviews with the four contractors submitting bids most of Friday, the Warwick School Building Committee unanimously recommended Dimeo Construction as construction manager.

The $22 million “at risk” award sets a $350 million ceiling on the project including design, engineering financing and construction of the two schools.

At the School Committee meeting Tuesday, the committee added its endorsement, thereby moving the project closer to a groundbreaking and a targeted opening of the schools in 2028. Both schools would be built simultaneously in athletic fields and open areas of their current campuses. Once completed, the former schools would be demolished and athletic facilities would be built on those sites.

“”They really dove deeply into the projects…they jumped head first into everything in the project,” Testa said of Dimeo Sunday. During questions and presentations the contractors addressed such issues as to how they would manage traffic during the opening and closing of schools and the blasting of ledge at Toll Gate. The Pilgrim site, on the other hand will require some fill that may come from material removed from Toll Gate.

More than once during interviews on Friday, Testa reminded firms bidding of the $350 million budget and “not a penny more.” All remained confident that is attainable. 

The construction manager at risk (CMAR) method of construction, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is a method in which a construction manager is hired early in the building process, and they advise the building’s design firm during design and planning. If done correctly, the method can lead to a more time- and cost-efficient project overall.

Also submitting bids were Ahlborg Construction of Warwick- who submitted a joint venture bid with Downs Construction, who recently opened a Warwick office-  Gilbane Construction of Providence and Shawmut Management Construction of Providence.

The Building Committee scored each individual builder based on a scoring system taking into account each bidder’s bid amount, qualifications, work plan and methodology, as well as interviews conducted with each firm. Dimeo finished with the most points overall at 125, while Gilbane finished a close second with 123.

According to Chris Spiegel, a senior project manager at LeftField Project Management, who the School Committee retained as OPM (owner’s project manager), Dimeo got the slight edge over Gilbane due to their interview with the Building Committee.

“In the end, Dimeo did provide higher scores across every single interview metric, as well as the pricing,” Spiegel said.

Ward 5 councilman Ed Ladouceur, the only member of the public to attend Friday’s meeting that started at 7:30 a.m., remained skeptical the schools can be built as portrayed to the voters leading up to approval of the $350 million last year.

 “They’re taking it from a Rolls Royce and turning it into a VW,” he said of what voters were told they would get and what’s planned now.

 Testa has heard the argument before that schools are pulling a “bait and switch” on taxpayers. His response is that the first drawings were conceptual and as architects and engineers got into the project changes were made to conform to the budget. He said square footage has been reduced but not to the point where it falls below standards set by the Rhode Island Department of Education.

“Chris Spiegel is our guy,” Testa said.

Spiegel gave the Warwick School Committee a comprehensive update on the current plans and timeline to build two new high schools Tuesday.

According to him, thanks to approval of the CMAR, plans for both high school projects were ahead of similar planned projects in Pawtucket, Middletown and South Kingstown.

“When I came before [the School Committee] on the 12th of last month, I said that we had a lot of work to do on a very aggressive schedule in order to ensure that Warwick gets their pick of construction managers for this job,” Spiegel said. “I’m happy to report that that aggressive schedule has worked out.”

Spiegel said that LeftField also considered awarding one high school project to Dimeo and one to Gilbane, but ended up awarding Dimeo with both. Plans for all four bidders, according to Spiegel, meant that Warwick Public Schools would see significant cost savings by awarding them both projects.

By approving Dimeo, Warwick Public Schools has now entered into a contract for preconstruction. According to Spiegel, the preconstruction process will determine exactly how much the construction manager's fee ends up being.

Next steps, according to Spiegel, will include bringing on additional firms as consultants and working on the design of both buildings. He set a goal of early May for the schools to reach a schematic design checkpoint, which will be submitted to the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE).

Still, the hiring of a construction manager marked a major milestone for Warwick Public Schools in the process of school construction.

 “The train has really left the station now,” Testa said.

DiMeo, construction, schools


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