Tariffs on imported steel have raised the price on Talawanda School District’s new Marshall Elementary School and are contributing to at least a three-month delay in starting the project.
The U.S.-imposed tariffs have increased the cost of imported steel and other materials, which has increased the overall cost to build the school. Metals make up approximately $1 million of the total budget.
The new building was supposed to cost $10.8 million to construct. This number was derived from standard formulas the state developed based on the size of the building.
However, the architect’s projected costs are $2 million more, and the construction manager’s projected costs would be almost $5 million over what’s budgeted.
“[The construction manager’s overages are] something we may not be able to bring under control, and that might warrant discussion with the state about a possible increase in the budget,” said Talawanda Treasurer Mike Davis.
In addition to the steel tariffs increasing the overall cost of the project, there was a complication with the soil on the site having too much silt in it, which makes it too soft to hold up a building, Davis said. To fix this, the engineers can either reinforce the existing soil or remove it and replace it. Both of these options are expensive and require more money than originally budgeted, he said.
Because of the budget issues, the start date for the project has been delayed. The groundbreaking, which originally was planned for April 2019, will now likely occur in July or early August.
Marshall is the last school in the district to be renovated. The proposed new 42,000-square-foot building is to have three classrooms for each grade level and improvements such as air conditioning and mobile touch-screen computer monitors.
Requests for quotation (RFQs) were accepted earlier this year for the architect and construction manager. Interested companies filled out an extensive document giving their plans and qualifications for the project. Davis, the superintendent of the school district, and two representatives from the Ohio Department of Education reviewed them.
They interviewed the candidates and eventually chose Robertson Construction of Heath, Ohio, to build the new school. Robertson was chosen based on a scoring system of its answers on the RFQ and interview questions.
However, this does not mean the school is required to use that company. The project is still in the preconstruction phase, where plans and budgets are discussed and finalized.
Charlie Jahnigen, the architect on the project, said his firm will reexamine the designs to cut back on costs and get back within the budget.
“We’re working very hard … and we’re looking at everything from the flooring materials to the roofing materials to the way we have the plan laid out,” Jahnigen said. “We’re committed to trying to figure this out.”
While the architect’s budget can be rectified, the construction manager’s estimate is too far over budget, and a more drastic change needs to be made, Davis said.
Davis said instead of having a construction manager, the district will look at switching to a General Contractor (GC), which would be cheaper than the original plan. This model would require less personnel, which reduces labor fees, he said.
Switching the type of construction model would require the district to go through the whole bidding process again, except this time companies would be given the dollar amount of the budget. Davis said this could be beneficial because it causes the bidders to make their prices lower in order to compete with other companies vying for the project.
The later start date will result in a later opening date for the new school as well. It was supposed to be open for students to begin school in the fall of 2020. Now the hope is to finish the building in time for students to move in over Christmas break of the 2020-2021 school year, Davis said.
“We moved in with Kramer (Elementary School) from the old into the new over Christmas break, and it worked out … very well,” Davis said. “With proper planning and proper logistics, it can be done.”
Chad Hinton, principal of Marshall Elementary School, agreed that while moving in over Christmas break would not be ideal, it is doable. He said it also helps that the plans include keeping the gym from the old building, so they will not have to move materials outside during the winter, as the buildings will be connected.