By JOHN HOWELL
As the City Council weighs whether to release voter-approved bonding for new Pilgrim and Toll Gate High Schools on Sept. 18, questions will focus on the projected costs of the …
By JOHN HOWELL
As the City Council weighs whether to release voter-approved bonding for new Pilgrim and Toll Gate High Schools on Sept. 18, questions will focus on the projected costs of the buildings and what has been cut from plans through “value engineering” to account for inflation.
School personnel say it can be done for the $350 million approved by nearly 60 percent of those who voted last November. Skeptics say it can’t be done because of the higher cost of materials and escalating interest rates that will be burden taxpayers for years to come.
In a letter published in today’s Beacon, City Council President Steve McAllister outlines how the Sept. 18 meeting will be conducted and what action the city council can take, which is either approve or deny release of the bond funds. McAllister writes he will be voting in favor of the new schools.
“Warwick is continuing to grow and has always been a great place to raise a family. Having two state of the art high schools will be a true asset for the community. More families will look to move to Warwick so their children can learn in first class facilities with some of the top teachers in the state,” he says.
There is certain to be argument that we don’t need two new schools. This will be the position of Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur. On Friday he reiterated that with declining enrollment, Warwick would be better off with a single high school. He will vote against release of the bond money.
Architects Saccoccio & Associates and School Construction and Capital Projects director Steve Gothberg have closely monitored costs, revising the “conceptual” plans for the projects to reduce costs without sacrificing the educational integrity of the schools.
The euphemism, “value engineering” is applied to the process of trimming the costs. According to projections made in February by Colliers, possible building changes in the Pilgrim plans could save between $10.7 million and $14.5 million. Value engineering to Toll Gate could reduce costs between $15.6 million and $20.2 million.
So, what would be trimmed from the designs of more than a year ago?
The biggest single change over for both schools is substitution of a tempered air system for air conditioning for a high range savings of $4 million at each school. Gothberg explained that in place of cooling the air, tempering it acts as a dehumidifier. The system has been installed during the summer at Warwick Neck Elementary and is planned for other elementary schools.
Next on the list of big item deductions is a $2.1 million saving at both schools with the elimination of 3,600 square feet of gym vestibules. Also in the area of athletic facilities, the gyms at both schools that were first designed to accommodate seating for 1,300 would be reconfigured for 950 at a reduction of 2,000 square feet and savings of $1,260,000 at both schools.
In terms of site value engineering is the elimination of new Toll Gate tennis courts for a high savings of $1.2 million; the loss of one tennis court at Pilgrim for $100,000; elimination of one Pilgrim practice field, $700,000; keeping the two existing Toll Gate practice fields, for a $1 million savings and elimination of the reduction of ledge at Toll gate for a $1.8 million savings.
The elimination of outdoor dining areas at both schools would save a total of $2.8 million.
The total cost of the schools taking in soft costs that includes architectural fees at a total of $22 million, construction and contingencies of $20.1 million, Colliers projects at $178.3 million for Toll Gate, $166.8 for Pilgrim and $4.9 million for the renovation of the Warwick Area Career and Technical Center. The sum of it all is $350 million.
Testa points out that the potential value engineering targets are “not set in stone” nor are they a complete list. During construction design and bidding costs could come in under budget enabling the retention of elements dropped from the conceptual design.
As Testa sees it, while the Colliers projection was made six months ago, it’s not that far off from the projection made by Ellana Construction Consultants that the council retained to give a third independent cost analysis. Ellana came up with a construction cost of $301,356,356 for the schools and $52,887,973 in soft costs and contingency for a total of $364,244,038
“This is just over a 1% difference (from the $350M) and can be made up through contingency reduction and/or minor adjustments to the value engineering targets,” Testa writes in an email.