The lowest base bid, at $59.72 million, came from local firm JA Street & Associates, based in Blountville. The other firms and their base bids: Branch Construction, based in Roanoke, Va., $66.96 million; and Christman Construction, based in Knoxville, $67.9 million.
Sullivan County Purchasing Agent Kris Davis opened the sealed bids as representatives of bidding firms and some members of the Sullivan County Board of Education looked on. Beside Davis was Dineen West, representing Cain Rash West Architectural Services — architects for the new school. After following the bid-opening protocol of reading aloud details (firm, Tennessee license number, subcontractors for various portions of the work to be done — all listed on the outside of each submission), Davis broke the seal on each, affirmed bond information was included as well as confirmation addenda had been received, then read aloud the base bid amounts and deductions or additions for alternatives.
After the public opening, Davis and West were to verify the details of each bid (in other words, check to make sure the licenses of the contractors and subcontractors are valid and correct).
The next step is to send the verified information, in spreadsheet format, to the Board of Education — scheduled to meet in a called session next week to consider the bids.
According to the forms filed by the bidders, once the contract is awarded, the winner agrees to begin work within three days and have the school ready for occupancy within 720 days of “notice to proceed.”
Options to consider
When the bidding process began, potential contractors were given a list of items for specific pricing. Those included:
• Unit pricing for trench rock excavation (12,000 cubic yards) and earthmoving (based on 100,000 cubic yards).
• Alternate 1 — delete auxiliary gym (this move would, based on the bids, reduce the base bids by between $850,000 and $1.06 million).
• Alternate 2 — delete football stadium, track and grandstands (this move would, based on the bids, reduce the base bids by between $1.345 and $2.72 million).
• Alternate 3 — delete baseball and softball fields and supporting buildings, tennis courts and associated bleachers (this move would, based on the bids, reduce the base bids by between $1.095 million and $3.46 million).
• Alternate 4 — polished concrete finishing for corridors and commons (this would add between $45,000 and $485,000, depending on the bidder).
• Alternate 5 — preferred door hardware (this would add between $0 and $10,000, depending on the bidder).
• Alternate 6 — walkway canopy at auto-tech/welding (this would add between $23,000 and $30,000, depending on the bidder).
• Alternate 7 — food service equipment and installation (this would add between $1.133 million and $1.215 million, depending on the bidder).
• Alternate 8 — metal lockers (this would reduce the cost between $17,000 and $33,000, depending on the bidder).
• Alternate 9 — single source mechanical for HVAC (this did not change the cost under any of the bids).
In addition to all those, earlier this week the bid opening was delayed from Tuesday until Thursday after the architects sent the bidders an addendum that dealt largely with specifications for lighted exit signs to be used, as well as clarification of the calendar days stipulated in the bid form and clarification that the unit pricing mentioned above for earthmoving and trench rock removal would apply to any amounts exceeding the estimated cubic yardage cited in the bid form.
If the Sullivan County school board ultimately chooses to proceed with the project and delete nothing (build the gym, football stadium, track, grandstands, baseball and softball fields, tennis courts, bleachers) and include the polished concrete floors, preferred door hardware, walkway canopy, food service equipment and installation, and go with the metal lockers: JA Street’s bid total would be $60,927,000; Branch’s bid total would be $68,698,000; and Christman’s bid total would be $69,380,000.
How did we get here?
Funding for the school is coming from a $140 million countywide bond issue, approved more than 18 months ago. The bonds were issued and funds received more than a year ago. The proceeds were split between the county school system and city school systems because city residents pay county property taxes, which will be used to pay off the bond debt. The county system’s plans for its share are to spend roughly $60 million on the new high school and roughly $20 million on the new Sullivan East Middle School, already under construction on Weaver Pike.
The $140 million was split based on student enrollment in each system, and Sullivan County’s share was projected to be about $67 million. Kingsport used a portion of its proceeds from the bond issue to buy Sullivan North High School from the county for $20 million. That left the county school system with a projected $87 million take overall.
The 800-student middle school, about a mile from East High, is to be completed in time to open in the fall term of 2019.
West Ridge, off Lynn Road near Interstate 81’s Exit 63, is scheduled for completion and opening by the fall term of 2020. Grading work on the land is underway.
By the time the schools are built, they will be the first new schools in the county system in about 40 years.
The new high school will serve all students in the current North and South zones and all or most of the students in the current Central zone, with some Central students being shifted to East High, depending on school enrollments in 2020. East is scheduled to get some renovations and updates by 2020.
South and Central are to become middle schools, while North will become a city middle school in the fall of 2021. Repurposing the other two high schools as middle schools will allow the middle school portion of Sullivan Gardens K-8 to close, as well as Colonial Heights Middle, Blountville Middle and Holston Elementary/Middle.