By Bill Short
The Millington School Board voted last week to seek new bids for construction of a proposed Performing Arts Center based on revised architectural plans.
Board members took the action during their Sept. 5 monthly meeting on a motion offered by Chris Denson and seconded by Mark Coulter.
The motion was passed by a 4-1 vote, with board Vice Chairman C. J. Haley dissenting and members Larry Jackson and Ronnie Mackin absent.
At an April 20 special called meeting, a majority of the board members rejected the lowest/best bid of $6,368,876 submitted by Fulwood Construction Co. of Olive Branch, Miss., for construction of the Performing Arts Center.
A motion offered by Haley and seconded by board Chairman Cody Childress to accept the bid was defeated by a 4-3 vote, with Coulter, Denson, Jackson and Mackin dissenting.
Dr. David Roper, superintendent of Millington Municipal Schools, told the board at a June 29 meeting that he had asked the architectural/engineering firm TLM Associates of Jackson to submit new designs for construction of the proposed building on the Millington Central High School campus.
Roper said he believed those designs could “substantially” decrease the construction cost by “reducing the footprint” of the building with exclusion of the MCHS Broadcasting Department from it.
At the Sept. 5 meeting, Jerry Hartsfield and Frank Wagster of TLM Associates presented revised architectural plans that removed the Broadcasting Department, the “shop area” and an enclosed walkway from the building’s square footage.
“We now have a covered walkway that’s open and not enclosed,” Hartsfield noted. “The parking lot, access drives and storm drainage all stayed pretty much the same as the original plans.”
Hartsfield also said the interior of the building, including the stage, number of seats, lobby space and restrooms, was not changed.
In response to a question by Childress, he said “the big thing” was the removal of 6,000 square feet, which is reflected on the floor plan.
Hartsfield acknowledged that, to decrease the construction cost, the architectural plans had to be changed.
“If you change one or two things on there,” he noted, “it basically changes almost every one of your drawings. So, we didn’t keep too many of the drawings that we had originally.”
Wagster said he met with the same “plans reviewer” for the Tennessee Fire Marshal’s Office in Nashville who had reviewed the original set of plans. The reviewer told him that the revised plans are “close enough” to the original set that he should be able to get them approved “pretty quickly.”
Wagster noted that the reviewer “balked” at his request to not charge for reviewing the new set of plans. But he found out that, when he submitted the original fee, he was charged twice for the review.
“He said it would take about two months to get it back,” Wagster recalled. “But he is sending us a 50-percent rebate on the first review. That’s about $12,000, which basically pays for the review.”
In response to a question by Roper, Wagster said the Fire Marshal’s Office has indicated that, based on the revised drawings, it will not have to start over from Square One with a full review.
And the reviewer asked that the new set of plans be sent directly to him.
“Since he’s aware of what’s going on, he’ll be ready for it,” Wagster noted. “And he’s expecting it about now.”
Roper cited new cost estimates for the project, based on reduction of the design to 19,747 square feet. He said adding architectural fees, construction administration, Memphis Light, Gas & Water fees, seating, lighting, stage curtains, etc., brings the total projected cost to $5,978,059.10.
Roper recalled that, when the board originally advertised for bids in March, the cost including the broadcasting equipment came to $7,248,876. So, the difference between those two amounts is $1,270,817.
Denson asked where Fulwood would “stand” with the board issuing a Request for Proposals to all the general contractors.
While acknowledging that he was “just guessing,” Hartsfield said that company’s owner will probably submit a new bid because of his strong interest in the project.
Hartsfield said approximately 10 contractors obtained copies of the plans last spring, and about six or seven submitted bids. He noted that Fulwood’s bid was $180,000 less than the second-lowest one submitted.
In response to another question by Denson, Hartsfield said he does not think it will “harm” the board to issue an RFP and do its “due diligence.”
Roper said there is a cost of approximately $15,339 associated with advertising for new bids on the project. That includes $8,800 for 3 percent of the total architectural/engineering bidding fee, $4,553 for printing and distribution of plans and specifications and slightly more than $2,000 for advertising.
While noting that there is also a time line involved in the rebidding process, Roper said mid-November is the “earliest” that construction could begin.
Because contractors are normally allowed 30 days to submit their bids, Hartsfield said he expects that they would be opened about mid-October.
“So, this thing could go two ways,” Childress said. “We could either get a very good bid, or we could spend this money and get a higher bid than what we’ve got on the table.”
But Denson said that, because the owner of Fulwood Construction is “very interested” in the project, he will “more than likely” bid on it in such a way as to “stay in the running” for the job.
While acknowledging that no one likes to have a “delay,” Childress said he thinks it is in the school system’s best interest to “save some money” if possible. Because the project has already been delayed for six months, he said another 45 days will not “make or break us.”
“I think we owe it to the citizens of Millington to get the absolute best deal that we can,” Childress concluded. “We just hope that it goes the way we want it to. But from what I’ve heard today, I think our chances are very good to succeed in that.”
By Bill Short