The planned major renovations at Cave Spring High School that were budgeted for 31 million dollars in construction costs by the Roanoke County School Board – with another 6 million earmarked for “soft costs” like equipment – yielded only one bid from a contractor. The problem – the bid came in at 47 million dollars and the resulting gap between budgeted funds and what someone says they could build it for has brought the project to a halt for now.
That’s left school officials scrambling to move back in desks and other equipment that had been moved out of parts of the school in anticipation that construction would begin this summer. Now the project will go out for a second round of bidding. School board member Mike Wray, a Cave Spring High School alum who says this project “is near and dear to my heart,” is also “bothered” that it got to this point.
Wray says the school board has been huddling with designers and contractors to see what might be scaled back in order to bring the two numbers closer together. “We had to rethink everything.” Wray says a suggested expansion of the gym – including raising the roof to add more seating – could be backburnered. “There are some things we can do to help bring this back down closer to budget.”
One issue that he might want to revisit: In order to keep grades 10-12 on campus during the construction period, the build was estimated at around 28 months says Wray. (9th graders would be moved to Cave Spring Middle for a year). That helps hike up the price – the extended build period while working around students.
Wray suggests it could be pared down to as little as 14 months if all of the students were moved out of the current school – suggesting modular, connected classrooms on the school property. Wray calls the “cottages … a lot more high tech than they used to be.” Additional security could be provided for the cottages says the former Norfolk Southern accountant and Roanoke County supervisor. “It’s a process that takes a lot longer,” when you have to work around students says Wray.
At public meetings parents nixed the idea of sending all Cave Spring High School students away to allow for renovations at the 50 year old-plus school, including one suggestion floated to use the former JC Penney location at Tanglewood Mall. Wray is determined in any case to get the project back on track. He can see certain interior design aspects, “things you don’t even see,” going away perhaps. The gym expansion may have to wait “until we have [more] money available.” He’s optimistic that by working with architects and contractors the scope of the project and the time frame could be cut down.
The original allocation of funds was based on input from architects so the 47 million dollar lone bid was a bit of sticker shock. Bids that might have come back a few million dollars over the 31 million set aside could be managed but not the reality of the much higher figure notes Wray. “There’s not much room to work there.”
Leaving students in the school during the construction process probably left some contractors not wanting to bid on the project either he says – thereby tying up crews and subcontractors for more than two years. “We’ve got to see if we can get more people interested in this project, so that we get more bids. Then it gets more competitive.” He sees the public weighing in as well on issues like modular classrooms if it comes down to that option to save money.