Cost Of New Tyner School Soars To $95.9 Million; County Being Asked To Come Up With Another $16 Million

  • Friday, December 9, 2022
  • Hannah Campbell

The cost of building a new Tyner High/Middle School has soared to $95.9 million, county school officials said Thursday night.

The cost had been estimated to be $65 million to $70 million by school officials in 2021 when the County Commission approved funds toward the construction.

The low bid was the Christman Company. P&C Construction bid $99,357,776. The other bid was Tri-Con Construction at $108,959,266.

Ronald Rahan, of MBI, the architect for the project, said, "The project was initially estimated in November of 2021 at approximately $68M dollars.

"Once the scope was determined and market conditions were reassessed in February 2022, it was estimated that the project had increased to nearly $78M (this included 10% contingency). This amount was approved by HCDE and MB! was directed to proceed to Design Development. At the end of the DD phase (mid-June), the scope, as well as estimated construction costs, had increased bringing the estimated value to nearly $80M (with $2M contingency). After further review by HCDE, MBI was directed to proceed with the project and to include Deductive Alternates at time of bid.

"Material escalation prices at that time appeared to continue to rise but were slowing and labor prices showed relatively similar trends. It was estimated that both material and labor prices would hold to the nearly 5% per qtr. (on average) escalation estimates provided in our DD estimate. However, labor prices over the second and third qtr. of 2022 began to increase in the local construction market as skilled labor shortages significantly impacted the labor pool. This increase nearly doubled many local labor rates as construction companies struggled to find (and keep) good workers. This increased the demand for skilled labor and likewise, the cost for these workers. Surging national inflation as well as continued global supply chain issues also contributed to the 19.5% increase (over the budgeted estimate) to the bid of nearly $96M.

"Post-bid discussions with the contractors, suggested that the size of the project (at 250,000+s.f.) also contributed to the increased labor costs. Local contractors simply could not provide enough manpower to complete the work in a timely manner. It is estimated that premiums were placed on nearly 40% of various trades of the project with the hopes that labor would be fulfilled by paying overtime rates to complete the project.

"It is estimated that the increased escalation costs, in conjunction with the costs attributed to the labor shortages, is nearly 15% of the total 19.5% cost difference from the budgeted estimate.

"The bid of The Christman Co. is considered to be competitive and reflects current market conditions and trends. The Christman Co. is licensed in the State of Tennessee to construct the work as bid. Therefore, it is recommended that the contract is awarded to The Christman Co. Furthermore, upon discussion with HCDE, it is recommended that Deductive Alternate #3 be accepted for a Total Contract Amount of $95,970,000.

"Per the bid documents, a final decision by the Board of Commissioners must be made within sixty (60) days of the public bid opening and a Notice of Award must follow within fifteen (15) days or all bids may be withdrawn."

The bid opening was Nov. 10.

The school board voted Thursday night to approve the higher amount for the new school at the current location on Tyner Road.

To make up a significant shortfall, school officials said they would ask the County Commission for an additional $16 million.

Architectural and engineering firm MBI, Inc. agreed to shave $300,000 in landscaping expenses off the original $96.27 million estimate.

There is still no start date or groundbreaking set, school officials said. The original target was for the school to open in the fall of 2024.

Tyner's District 5 representative Karitsa Jones, who led the motion to approve the bid, said it is too early to determine a start date.

Current funding includes $46 million approved earlier by the county and $33 million in federal ESSER COVID relief funds that went to the school board.

Board members discussed the rising costs of everything, including wages, materials. Board member Marco Perez said the longer they wait to start, the higher the cost will be.
Chief Equity Officer Dr. Marsha Drake reported that the department continues to focus on tier 1 of its 2030 strategic plan. Tier 1 is a discipline tier which first builds a connection between adults and students in each school building. Board members reported some positive tier 1 results, including fewer student discipline infractions. But all who spoke said that suspension and expulsion rates are still too high, and that discipline in general remains a significant problem, with many calls from parents and also teacher resignations.

Deputy Superintendent Dr. Sonia Stewart said that this first phase involves advisory meetings and culture walks in each school to help establish the character, leadership and community of each school, a barometer that will in turn help lower discipline infractions, and that the suspension and expulsion rates will fall in the months after the infractions fall.

The board voted to approve contracting with iCIMS recruiting software to keep up with the highly competitive nature of recruiting teachers and administrators in the current market.

"Our hope is that this is going to cut down on our costs," said Chief of Talent Dr. Zac Brown. Dr. Brown said the Department of Education plans to hire 450 teachers next year, and iCIMS would help sort, contact, and follow up with 70,000 applicants in the system, using automated texts and e-mails, mobile device capabilities and other "hyper sensitive" features in recruiting.

The board also voted to approve a plan for University High School, a four-year program in partnership with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Unlike its dual enrollment and Collegiate High predecessors, students will stay strategically connected to their home high school throughout enrollment, and students will not bear the cost of the program, which will be offset with grants and with UTC's commitment to keep costs low.

The school board presented certificates of thanks to a team from the Department of Education that helped to support public school families displaced by the recent Budgetel hotel large-scale displacement in East Ridge.

The school board congratulated the Signal Mountain High School cross country team for its 11th state championship, the eighth for the girls' team and the third for the boys' team.

The school board recognized the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Emerging Leaders Class of 2022 - Donna Nearly and Erin Kirby. This year's class is only 21 people nationwide.

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