North Reading School Building Project Line Items Over Budget

The building project has made progress, but some line items have exceeded original budget estimates.

The North Reading School Building Project recently held their Groundbreaking Ceremony at the middle school and the project continues to make progress. However, throughout the last few weeks, the Secondary Schools Building Committee learned that some line items have exceeded original budget estimates.

Additional progress has been made on the project since the last update we posted. According to Selectmen Chairman Sean Delaney, there is an architect, owner's project manager and construction manager on board and they have met with the Community Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals and Conservation Commission. The construction design documents and drawings are 60 percent complete.

"The next milestone will be 90 percent next month, in January the construction documents will be 100 percent complete," Delaney said.

Approximately $6 million has been expended so far.

According to Delaney, as the construction documents evolved, specific line items exceeded the original cost estimates. The cost drivers have primarily been site development issues such as unsuitable soil and EPA/DEP regulations, increased steel needed to reinforce the roof, the HVAC system and the "heating up" of the construction market.

Over the last couple of weeks, the design development and construction team came up with various alternative solutions to resolve the issues. A few of those solutions were voted on at the SSBC meeting Tuesday.

According to Superintendent Kathleen Willis, several options were discussed, but few voted on. Many of the items will need to go through a significant vetting process before the committee makes any decisions, Willis said.

Some of them items that were voted on last week are as follows:

  • Under the site/demo category, the committee voted to delete the pre-cast seat walls that surround the planting beds on the site to save a total of $91,000.
  • In the same category, originally there was $450,000 allocated for a variety of planting around the campus. The committee voted to take $200,000 away from that specific budget. The committee hopes that will not affect the amount of plants on the campus, but rather that the plants may now be seedlings instead of mature plants.
  • In the structural category, the parapets or "bump ups" on the roof of the middle school were eliminated, saving $290,000.
  • In the same category, roof screens around the mechanical structures associated with the HVAC system were eliminated, saving $100,000.
  • In the architectural category, pop ups on both ends of the high school were eliminated from the budget, saving $96,600. However, the pop up on the roof in the middle of the high school will remain as it was a prominent design feature, Willis said. 
  • In the general category, the roof over the pathway from an art classroom to Main Street was eliminated from the budget saving $198,000. The pathway will still be there, but the roof will not.

Willis said that there are still several discussions to be had regarding the mechanical and electrical categories, especially the HVAC system, but no decisions have been made at this time. The next Secondary School Building Committee meeting will be on Dec. 4 at 5:30 p.m. in the middle school library.

The superintendent stressed that the educational programs will not be affected by these changes. The goal remains to keep the project on schedule and on budget, she said.

The final estimated cost of the project should be available by the end of the year.

Joe Veno November 27, 2012 at 11:39 AM
I have been told the short fall is more like 4.8 million. The amount of cuts here does not come any where near that figure.
Jack Hoffman November 27, 2012 at 06:52 PM
$6 million dollars expended so far and we still don't have concrete construction plans. The cost drivers have primarily been site development issues such as unsuitable soil and EPA/DEP regulations, increased steel needed to reinforce the roof, the HVAC system and the "heating up" of the construction market. How didn't the site developer know before they broke ground that the soil wouldn't be suitable? EPA/DEP regulations, Did we not know the regulations before starting the project? How did the architect, owner's project manager and construction manager not adequately forecast the amount of steel they would need for the roof. I supposed the simple answer to tell the residents of the town is the construction market is "heating up." It's okay everyone, the construction market is heating up.
Ed Canney December 01, 2012 at 07:28 PM
Yes Jack you are correct...regulations should have been known. As to the Middle School roof. Adding for snow loading has been required by the Building Code for over 15 years, so that calculation should have never been a surprise. The soils' quality are much more problematic. I find it very surprising the soils in this area are not adequate. Unless the soil tests showed significant clay, I find it hard to believe the minimum 4 tons/sq. ft. are not present. If they are not, there are mitigation procedures that would achieve the necessary support for a two story educational building. My advice is that the SSBC seek an "independent" structural engineer to look at the data for both the roof & soils. Hopefully there is a structural engineer that is a resident and would lend his/her expertise for these issues. My guess is that both the roof & soil "problems" are resolvable w/out the need to "bust" the budget. The SSBC, unfortunately is receiving poor advice. As a matter of fact...I'm quite sure of it.
Ed Canney December 03, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Maybe if they hadn't been in such a hurry to "push" for a vote on this project they could have spent a little more time "planning". If you noticed the ballot and motion @ town meeting had no numbers attached. Presentations that were made are not motions. Perhaps Town Moderator Murphy could explain just how he allowed a bond issue vote w/no dollar amounts attached. And the ballot question mirrored that slight of hand. I have copies of both. So please Mr. Murphy, explain!


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