Construction costs increase

To pay for a new football stadium and other athletic facilities at Oak Harbor High School, voters approved a $6.5 million bond last November. In addition, the Rotary Club is donating approximately $500,000.

It turns out that isn’t enough.

Early estimates show the project is $600,000 over budget and school officials are figuring out how to make up the shortfall.

Instead of making cuts in the project, they are looking at other funding sources to make up the shortfall. One such source is Department of Defense Supplemental Aid the school district receives each year. That money, which ranges between $329,000 and $350,000 per year, has been used for capital projects in the past.

School board member Kathy Jones said the community has been waiting a long time for a new stadium and the school district should build the best possible facility.

“We have one chance to do this,” Jones said. “Do what it takes to build a solid facility.”

Superintendent Rick Schulte agreed and added that the costs could go up or down in the coming months.

“I think it’s reasonable to add budget for us to be able to do this,” Schulte said.

The school district is citing several reasons for the higher-than-expected costs.

Schulte said during the meeting that the costs for construction materials, particularly aluminum, have risen dramatically in recent months.

“We’ve been hit by a number of unpredictable factors,” Schulte said.

Another factor the school district is citing is the lack of competitive bids. Other school districts in the region have seen fewer, and higher, bids for school construction projects. One contractor who bid on an elementary school project in the Everett School District came in 21 percent above the estimate. The low bid for an elementary school in the Bellevue School District came in 12 percent above the estimate, according to information from the Oak Harbor School District.

Locally, when estimates for a new high school in Coupeville rose above the budget, Coupeville school officials had to delay other construction projects until more money becomes available.

Schulte did have a list of $100,000 worth of cost savings for the board to consider. He said the potential cuts are ones nobody would notice.

“We’re still going to end up with a facility everybody is going to be thrilled with,” Schulte said.

However the board’s consensus seemed to be with expanding the athletic facility’s budget.

School board member Corey Johnson was concerned about the project budget. He wanted to look at cuts to ensure there’s money available for other aspects of the project, namely the adjacent athletic field, to be completed.

“I want to make very certain that we told the public we are doing — we are doing,” Johnson said.

Schulte said the practice fields will be replaced as part of the high school modernization project. Those fields will be destroyed when builders use them as a staging area for the renovation.

“During the high school modernization, those fields aren’t going to exist,” Schulte said. Those fields will be rebuilt after the renovation is complete.

By using the supplemental aid funding, several other projects are put on hold. Those include replacing the parapet at the school district’s warehouse and the carpet at Hillcrest Elementary School.

The stadium is expected to go out to bid in October and it should be complete by the fall of 2007.

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