2014-11-07 / Front Page

District seeks second opinion

RSU 21 board asks second choice to provide renovation estimate
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — The Regional School Unit 21 Board of Directors voted unanimously to seek a bid from their second choice for construction manager for the renovation of Mildred L. Day School, Consolidated School and Kennebunk High School.

The district’s first and current choice for construction manager, Consigli, has been working with the district’s architecture and design firm, Harriman, to revise and reconcile project estimations. Consigli’s estimations, as Superintendent Kevin Crowley told the board at Monday’s meeting, are about $1.2 million over the district’s budget for the project, $58.6 million.

The process of approaching PC Construction Company in the request for proposal process to provide its estimated estimated cost of the project is likely to take about eight weeks, Crowley said at Monday’s board meeting.

Getting a second bid from a construction management firm will further aid the board in verify a realistic estimate for the renovation project. Crowley likened the effort to buying a car, in the same way one visits more than one dealership to compare costs before making a final purchase.

“I look at it simply,” Crowley said, “What are we building? What have other people built? What have they paid and what do we pay? It’s not scientific — there are differences in scope, there are differences in building.”

Harriman previously estimated that the district could carry out a project of this scope at a cost of approximately $58.6 million. The board hired Consigli as construction manager earlier in the summer, per Harriman’s suggestion; Consigli found a discrepancy of approximately $8 million — its estimation was in the $67 million range.

For the last month both firms have been working pro bono to reconcile their estimates to determine if $58.6 million is a realistic estimate. The answer at Monday’s meeting was no —“One firm believes the estimate should be ‘X,’ the other firm believes it should be ‘Y,’” Crowley told the board.

Consigli does not think the district can adequately complete the three-part renovation project for less than about $59.8 million unless the project scope is reduced to the point of impacting programming.

“Do I think one (firm’s estimate) may be a little high? I do. Do I think that Harriman is a little low? I do,” Crowley said. “And I think it’s somewhere in the middle. What’s going to be important to us is where the middle is.”

“This friction has been very productive between Consigli and Harriman,” said board member Jeff Cole. “They’ve squeezed $7.5 million out of that variance. Frankly I’d like to see it continue. If what was a very tight lemon to begin with has had this much juice squeezed out of it, I’d like to see it squeezed a bit more, quite frankly,” Cole said. “To do that, if it means involving PC, I think that’s a very useful process to engage in.”

Said board member Brad Huot, “We come back again with another attempt at squeezing this lemon that we thought didn’t have a lot of juice left in it, and every time, whether it’s a scope reduction in the project or massaging numbers or looking over these numbers again, it seems like we’re always finding things that either didn’t get seen before or somebody didn’t think of.”

“How do we know where the bottom is?” Huot said. “How are we supposed to know when that lemon is dry? We’ve been through this so many times, so many times, so many times. When is that it?”

While the numbers provided at Monday’s meeting are just estimates, they were enough to convince board members that exploring another firm’s estimates would be worthwhile. The option of seeking a bid from PC Construction Company will likely come at a cost. Specifics are not yet known.

“I think we owe the public, we owe ourselves to go forth and approach the second bidder,” said board member Amy Johnson. “I think we can all sit back and think of all the big purchases we’ve made in our life, whether it’s an addition to your house, it’s a car, it’s a winter jacket, you comparison shop, and I think we should do this. I think it’s smart.”

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