School wing bid is $22.6 million

The BHS construction contract goes to the Tacoma firm that built Sakai Intermediate.

Tuesday morning was all tension.

For at least a day, there would be no drowning in drawings. No more tapping the calculator. All that was left was the opening of a solitary envelope, inside which rested the fate of the Bainbridge High School renovation project.

“I was worthless,” said Capital Projects Director Tamela VanWinkle, of slow-burning hours that preceded the bid opening. “I didn’t know what to do with myself.”

She drove by the empty 200 building, and was struck by the urgency. No contractor, she thought, no project. Finally, ringed by her colleagues in a blank room, VanWinkle delivered.

“It was such a feeling of relief,” she said at Thursday’s special school board meeting, where the early week’s tension had been replaced by smiles and the smell of catered food. “It felt like we’d delivered a child to its adoptive parent.”

Slightly hefty at $22.6 million, the BHS renovation wriggled into the hands of Tacoma contractor Leo Finnegan Construction on Thursday, after the school board officially awarded the bid.

LFC was the only bidder on the project, which will replace the 200 building with a new structure twice its size, among other improvements.

The 70,000-square-foot, two-story building will house a new library, commons, office and classroom space. It also will incorporate natural lighting and ventilation, and two green roofs. Transportation improvements will include a new bus entrance at the southwest corner of the campus. City code required a reduction at the school of 81 parking spaces.

Building permits were issued last week. The design team will meet with the construction team on Monday to discuss the project schedule, including the demolition of the 200 building.

There will be a public groundbreaking ceremony at BHS at 4 p.m. on May 31, and actual construction will begin in June. School Board President Bruce Weiland said the district has formed an “aggressive” communication plan to keep the community apprised as the renovation unfolds.

Though Tuesday’s bid was 5.3 percent over budget, district officials were elated with the outcome, and decided quickly to move ahead with the project.

“We certainly hoped the bid would come in below what we projected,” said Superintendent Ken Crawford. “But this margin, given the current bid climate, is excellent.”

VanWinkle has been fretting for months about the regional bid climate, which has been unfavorable for school projects elsewhere. Most recently, she watched an Edmonds School District project receive a low bid that was $10 million over budget.

“The way we built the project budget, we’re exactly where we need to be,” said Bainbridge school board member Cheryl Dale.

Officials said the BHS renovation won’t require non-voted debt or the alteration of other capital projects because future bond interest earnings will be enough to make up the deficit.

“The school improvements that voters overwhelmingly endorsed will be built with the approved funds,” Weiland said.

Still unresolved is litigation over $2 million worth of impact fees scheduled to be used for the project. Islander Daniel Smith earlier this year filed an appeal to the state Growth Management Hearings Board that challenges the city’s comprehensive plan update and associated school facilities plans.

Smith’s appeal says that school officials have understated the current capacity at BHS. If successful, it could prevent the district from using some or all of the impact fee money. A hearing is scheduled for June 21.

Thursday’s meeting took place at Sakai Intermediate School, which, as it turns out, was built by LFC.

Along with awarding the high school bid, the board also authorized the design team to seek bids for the $3.6 million maintenance facility, set to take shape this summer off of New Brooklyn Road, at the northern edge of the BHS campus.

The old facility, which was in disrepair, will be demolished to make way for parking.

Before the board formally awarded the bid, Crawford praised VanWinkle and the design team for setting the groundwork.

“(The bid) did reinforce the expertise brought to bear in this project,” he said. “I don’t know of any school system that’s been better prepared.”

As officials prepared to break bread, Weiland summed up.

“I guess we’re building a building,” he said. “This is a celebration of the community.”

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