During the Tuesday night work session of the Methacton School District board of directors, an all too common topic was up for discussion once more: the fields project. As most district residents are currently aware, the lights and turf project has been placed on the agenda a number of times over many years.
Tuesday, the district’s superintendent, Dr. David Zerbe, presented updated information to the board and the public during a board work session. Complete with slides showing updates, picturesque renderings and changes to the bid process, Zerbe recommended that the board vote to put the bids out to the public this fall.
This attempt to collect bids will be the third time the district has done so. Previously, tightened deadlines for graduation and attempts to rush shovels into the ground forced Zerbe and the board to decline earlier results.
Under his current plan, Zerbe suggested that the board, which will vote officially on placing the bids at next week’s action meeting, a public advertisement would first be published on Oct. 1. A second ad would follow on Oct. 7, with a third and final being published on Oct. 13.
With a pre-bid meeting slated for Oct. 14, Zerbe suggested to the board that all final questions from vendors be submitted and answered by Oct. 23, with final bids being due on Nov. 3.
Should the suggested timeline be accepted by the board, the bids could be reviewed and rewarded in time for a Nov. 18 or Nov. 23 meeting. This would allow for the project to begin, with shovels in the ground, by March 2, 2015.
“Getting bids before the Christmas holiday solidified, means we get that commitment to start March 2 if that is what the board intends to do,” said Zerbe.
Zerbe said that the deadline offers prospective bidders more time to gather facts, place an informed and more accurate bid, and allow more vendors to participate.
“Our largest change is the timeframe,” said the superintendent. “In our second round of bidding, we had to juggle graduation and getting something into the ground in time for a football season. We were rushing.”
Zerbe himself stated that this rejection of the second round of bids was his own decision and recommendation to the board.
“I felt compelled to make this happen, and I failed in that process,” he said. “But I can tell you today that we have a solid team of experts to get this bid into the market and return some results to our community.”
Overall, the administration had much more confidence in this third attempt.
“Do you feel this is going to work?” asked board member Brenda Hackett. “Is it ‘third time’s a charm’ here?”
“I do,” stated Zerbe.
So what is different about the process this third time?
“We’ve assembled prominent members of the construction committee, Mr. (Frank R.) Bartle (solicitor), myself, Gregory Pellicano,” said Zerbe. “We have submitted a significant amount of changes as part of this process.”
Other changes, besides the timeframe for bids to be allowed, included:
· Doing a rock study
· Defining the project more clearly
· Removing alternate requirements
· Subdivison of the phases/project
· Listed quantities
· Included digital specifications and drawings
· Reorganized the reply forms
Why the changes?
Zerbe said that doing tests ahead of time like the rock study allowed for the district to be more clear for contractors on what type of dirt and rock would have to be removed. Previous price estimates showed that the cost of doing such studies (or the lack of knowledge of what materials are underground) jacked up estimates.
Defining the project allowed, again, for more clarity for contractors considering a bid. Previous bid requirements asked contractors for alternatives. With many unknowns in pending conditional use hearings, county and township land development processes and possible late additions, the previous projects that had gone out to bid forced contractors to leave room for such changes down the road.
“The first phase will be the storm water management, with the second being the construction of the fields and other work,” said Zerbe. “On this campus, there may be ways to start some of the storm water management and do that separately without doing the rest of the campus project. We broke it down into sub-phases to allow for different vendors to bid on different pieces.”
Listing quantities of needs along with the specs and drawings also should allow for lower bids to be submitted this time around, as the more clear a project is, the less work the contractor has to do.
“We’ve also reorganized the reply forms,” said the superintendent. “Forms that we had previously used were not usual forms that a contractor, especially some of the larger ones, were familiar with. This caused some substantial angst last time around, so our advisory committee suggested standard forms for these types of projects.”
In total, the major changes to the process are aimed to get a lower resulting cost for the district.
“I feel it is necessary to share with you these improvements,” said Zerbe. “This is a project about our future, for today, tomorrow, and 30 years from now. This will help us to maintain a quality of life for our schools and a quality of life for our community. I believe this will provide an ability to attract families to Worcester and Lower Providence townships and to Methacton School District for many years to come.”
The board will vote on allowing the bids and suggested time frame at the next meeting, slated for Tuesday, Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. Meetings are open to the public and held at the high school’s LGI Room.