MUSCLE SHOALS — Getting started on building the Muscle Shoals school district's new center for technology is not going as easily as most anticipated.
School board members have made $5.7 million available for the project, but recently opened bids from companies wanting to do the work have complicated the situation.
Six companies submitted bids on the three-phase project, but figuring out the low bidder that meets all criteria for the project is difficult. Additionally, the school district's three-prong approach also makes the decision more difficult.
School members solicited bids for essentially three projects.
One involves a six-program building to house the technology program. Bids also were requested for an eight-program building as well as for a facility large enough to accommodate 10 programs.
School board members will decide later which program makes the most sense financially.
Lee Builders, of Huntsville, submitted the low base bid of $4.7 million for the smallest facility. The company also had the lowest total bid of just under $6.05 million.
A notation on their bid, however — "no electrical aid to construction" — could make it problematic to award Lee Builders the bid, at least until more information is gathered.
Eddie Griffith, of KREBS Architecture and Engineering, said the notation indicates the bid does not include the possible costs associated with connecting the new building to the city's electrical system. He said that does not disqualify Lee Builders but it does raise a question that must be answered before a contract can be awarded.
Although the lowest bid for the 10-program building exceeds the $5.7 million made available for the project, the board could decide to spend more or less than that amount.
Muscle Shoals Schools Superintendent Jeff Wooten said he is still deciding what his recommendation will be for the project.
"I really haven't had time to look and study the proposals and talk to the board members (about the bids)," he said. "It is just a busy time of the year with some other major reports being due and different things."
It's likely the board will award a contract during its Dec. 17 meeting, Wooten said. The board has 30 calendar days after the bid opening to award the contract.
Board member Pam Doyle, acting on advice from Griffith, said the school board attorney also will have input on the bids.
"With alternates involved, it isn't always as easy to see who is the low bidder," Doyle said. "That is why we are taking time to work through this and having the attorney look at it as well."
Doyle, who supports a 10-program facility, said low-interest rates likely make this the best time for the board to borrow money for capital projects.
Based on the bids, the cost of expanding from an eight-program building to a 10-program facility is about $500,000. Doyle said the interest on that amount would be about $28,500 each year.
"If we don't do all 10 programs, we will still have to have bus drivers and buses running a route (to the current campus)," Doyle said. "We can either spend that money on bricks and mortar or we can spend it on buses."
She added if the new facility isn't large enough to accommodate all of the career technical programs, some programs would remain at the current site. In that situation, there would not be a principal at both facilities, Doyle said.
Jennifer Edwards can be reached at 256-740-5754 or jennifer.edwards@TimesDaily.com.