January 8, 2013

Whitfield County school board splits $2.1M project

By Christopher Smith
christophersmith@daltoncitizen.com

— Members of the Whitfield County Board of Education decided Monday night what companies will build Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) labs in county schools early this spring. The project is being funded by a $2.6 million state grant.

Rome-based Pinson’s Construction was awarded the contract to build the labs in New Hope Middle School, North Whitfield Middle School, Valley Point Middle School and Westside Middle School. Dalton-based Cope Brothers Construction Co. was awarded the contract to build the labs at Southeast Whitfield High School, Northwest Whitfield High School and the Northwest Georgia College and Career Academy.

Felker Construction Co., J&J Contractors and R.K. Redding Construction also submitted bids.

Members of the academy’s board of directors recommended giving the entire job to Cope Brothers because of its reputation and its ties to the local economy, but school board member Bill Worley said using two companies “will be more cost-efficient.”

“There’s a lot of difference there,” Worley, vice chairman of the school board, said of the pricing between bids.

$33,830 to be exact, according to James W. Buckley and Associates, the architectural firm that designed the STEM labs and oversaw the bid process that was split three ways: middle school bids, high school bids and a combined bid for both.

Cope Brothers’ combined bid was $1.83 million, while Pinson’s combined bid was slightly higher: $1.88 million. Chattanooga-based J&J Contractors had the lowest combined bid at $1.82 million, while Bremen-based R.K. Redding had the highest combined bid at $2.2 million. Dalton-based Felker Construction only submitted for the high schools at $1.01 million.

Splitting the bid between Pinson’s middle school bid of $921,170 and Cope Brothers high school bid of $875,000 brings a total of $1.796 million. Getting the price tag as low as possible allows the construction companies to work on alternative projects, said Tim Fleming, career academy principal.

“We looked at trying to get the best bang for our buck ... and one of the toughest parts was coming up with alternate projects to do along with the STEM labs,” Fleming said. “North Whitfield needs exterior stairs because it has a steep drop at its (already existing) agriculture lab. We also want to have some epoxy flooring for the middle schools when we add the STEM labs. Once you remove walls you don’t know what is beneath it so we want to make sure the floors are top quality.”

Renovating the “outdated” engineering lab at Northwest Whitfield High is another alternative project expected to be included, said Fleming.

“Engineering rose to the top of our local needs,” he added. “The engineering lab there was really in the worst shape. It needs a lot of updating and it needs it soon.”

Adding the extra projects to (the two-company contract of $1.796 million) is “expected to bring the final total to around $2.1 million,” said Richard Schoen, assistant superintendent.

“Our goal is that the contingency fund isn’t used,” Fleming added. “If it isn’t, we can look at adding on additional projects.”

The “contingency fund” is $200,000 from the grant that the board of education approved to be set aside during construction to pay for any unexpected expenses, said school officials.

Fleming said members of the school and academy boards will look at renovations to the agriculture lab at Southeast Whitfield High School and renovations to the Northwest Whitfield High School broadcast room if the contingency fund remains unused.