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MASD mini-stadium on hold; bids higher than expected

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 2/26/20

A new synthetic turf mini-stadium near Middletown Area High School won’t be completed this fall as planned.

The Middletown Area School District Board voted unanimously Feb. 18 to rebid the …

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MASD mini-stadium on hold; bids higher than expected

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A new synthetic turf mini-stadium near Middletown Area High School won’t be completed this fall as planned.

The Middletown Area School District Board voted unanimously Feb. 18 to rebid the project, pushing the date it likely will open into August 2021.

The delay was caused by bids coming in too high and an aggressive time frame for completion, officials said. The district opened bids this month.

The lowest bids for mechanical, electrical and plumbing plus the only bid for general construction totaled $4,131,339 for the project. The estimate by the district’s consulting architects, Architerra, put the total cost at $3,806,148.

“If you were to rebid, I could guarantee you more quality bidders than what you have experienced. I can’t necessarily guarantee you a better number,” said David Horn of Architerra.

The field will be located on the other side of parking in front of the school, in the corner of the campus formed by where North Union Street passes over the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

It will be used by soccer, field hockey, youth and non-varsity football teams and physical education classes and band practice. The varsity football team will continue to use War Memorial Field. It also could play host to Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association playoff games.

The bid process was open for 35 days. The district received two bids for general construction, three for electrical construction, two for mechanical, and three for plumbing.

Horn said the apparent lowest bidder for general construction of the project, East Coast Contracting, withdrew its bid. A letter to the district said $217,000 for stone base and drainage work wasn’t calculated in its bid of $2,778,500.

East Coast’s bid, plus its omission and the lowest bids for mechanical, electrical and plumbing, put the total at $3,976,839, which is $170,691 above what Architerra estimated for the project.

The other bidder was ECI Construction. Its base bid was $3,150,000. That only one bid came in for general contracting, the costliest part of the project, was a concern for the board.

“I think we have to be diligent on follow through to make sure that we meet the timelines, that we’re not delaying it any further,” said Vice President Mike Corradi.

Corradi estimated that the district was and would be spending thousands of dollars on War Memorial Field to keep up with wear and tear on the field “if we don’t follow through with staying on task and getting this out to bid.”

Board member Stephen Shemler expressed concern that construction costs would continue to go up.

“I think you’re going to see us kicking ourselves in the butt because I think all the costs are going to go up much higher,” Shemler said.

According to William Meiser, MASD director of operations, the project will go out for bid June 4, allowing time to redo drawings and fix any omissions and addendum compilations. Meiser also told the board that one contractor told him the original timeline was too aggressive and that the company likely would bid on the project if the timeline was extended.

Bids will be due July 23, and utility contracts would be awarded Aug. 4.

Fields three and four — located where the mini-stadium is planned to be built — and War Memorial will continue to be used next school year.

Horn said 2019 was an “aggressive” construction year. His firm, he said, is involved with a similar project for a high school in the eastern part of the state — twice the scale of MASD’s field, but a similar scope.

Bids came in high for that project, he said, and another consultant had bids for a similar project also come in above estimates.

“We had no idea how robust it was going into 2020,” Horn said.

A lack of skilled labor is part of the cost increases, Horn said.

He said the firm reached out to contractors to tell them about the project. The construction industry is “booked solid” and no one has time to bid, Horn said.

Horn said he knew last fall that some factors were going to drive up costs.

“You may recall, I said, ‘Hey, take our estimate and add $500,000.’”

Horn said that prompted the board to discuss adding and deducting items from the scope of the project and redesigning the amenities facility.

Early on, the project was running ahead of schedule. Horn said the Dauphin County Conservation District wouldn’t give the district a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit until a previous permit for the Middletown Area High School was terminated, and Horn said that didn’t happen until November.

“The schedule just kept getting pushed, not by anything this consultant was doing, but by actions of other regulatory groups,” Horn said.