Partnership School cost to increase by $2M

Architect Bruce Wood gives an update on the Partnership School at the school board meeting Tuesday night. Estimates show the cost of the school increasing by more than $2 million in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. (Photo by Charlie Benton, SDN)
Staff Writer

Due to Hurricane Harvey, the cost of the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District Partnership School is projected to rise by at least $2 million.

In a presentation at the Tuesday night meeting of the SOCSD Board of Trustees, JH&H architect Bruce Wood said the cost would likely rise due to many construction materials either being made with petroleum or made along the Texas Gulf Coast, where Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 storm in late August.

Wood said many construction laborers had also gone to Texas due to lucrative opportunities in the rebuilding efforts.

“The majority of PVC piping is made in Houston, Texas, and those plants went underwater, so there was a shutdown in production,” Wood said. “I think they’re back up and running, but that impacted the price. There’s several things here that have increased: the doors, the insulation, the roofing materials, foreign products, anything with petroleum in it.”

Wood said as of the most recent estimate, Harvey had amounted to a 6.9 percent increase to the project’s anticipated $27.5 million price tag. He said the increase could be partially deferred by holding off on adding components the school could be occupied without, including security tapes, gym bleachers and landscaping components and a trellis in the cafeteria courtyard.

Wood also said there was still time for the prices to go down.

“It really depends on how each bidder positions himself with those prices,” Wood said.

School Board President Keith Coble said he wasn’t too concerned about the increase, due to the district being in sound financial shape.

“It is probably understandable that the construction business goes up and down,” Coble said. “I think it is reasonable for him to tell us that we’re likely to have to pay more than we originally projected because of the storms. We can always hope that competition is going to come to a low bidder that will come in under that estimate, but if not then we’re just going to have to look at our various sources of funding and see how we move forward.”

Advertising for bids on the project began Tuesday, with bids to be opened Nov. 9.

“It’s not the easiest thing in the world to predict what those are going to turn out to be,” Coble said. "Hopefully, they don’t all come in high.”

Wood said dirt work on the project remained on schedule.

The Partnership School is scheduled for a fall 2019 completion. Once complete, the school will house the district’s sixth and seventh grade students and serve as a laboratory for the Mississippi State University College of Education. The project is funded by the district, MSU and the state of Mississippi.

The district also reported a fund balance of $7,832,244.36, 18.04 percent of district maintenance revenues, and an 8 percent increase from last year. District policy requires at least 8 percent.