Hoping to save money on construction costs, officials are eyeing a faster timetable for completion of two new schools in Bristol. But it’s an idea that may not pass muster with the mayor.
Because contractors are desperate for work, officials said, the price tag for public buildings has come down sharply in recent months, opening the door to potential savings by speeding up the $132 million project to construct two kindergarten to eighth grade buildings.
“We think it’s appropriate to try to take advantage of that,” said John Smith, a Board of Finance member who serves on the West Bristol School Building Committee.
Current plans call for finishing the new schools in 2015, with the bulk of the construction work carried out in the last couple of years before the doors open. That timetable was set to push off costs for as long as possible.
Mayor Art Ward said he doubts the money will be available to shorten the construction schedule.
“They need to be mindful of the economic conditions,” Ward said. “It’s time for heed rather than haste.”
William Smyth, the acting assistant superintendent for business, said that the weak economy has driven down the cost of construction.
“It’s a good opportunity for the city to realize savings,” Smyth said.
Roger Rousseau, the city’s purchasing agent, said there is an opportunity “to take advantage” of the lower prices to help out taxpayers who will foot the bill.
Smith said that bids on municipal projects around the state are coming in at least 8 to 15 percent lower than expected in recent weeks because of the intense competition for the work from firms that are struggling to find business
“The city’s going to save some money” if it acts more quickly to do the bulk of the project, Smith said.
Rousseau said the more the city can do soon, the more it will help hold down costs in the long-term.
At best, the city could not start most of the construction until 2011 – and even that is problematic given the difficulty Bristol has had in securing both locations for the schools.
It has cut a deal for the former Crowley property on Pine Street to house one of the buildings, but officials are still negotiating with property owners for the other parcel eyed for a school on Matthews Street.
The state, which would pay 73.9 percent of the tab, has told the city it has to start the work by June 2010 or it could lose the state aid. Officials are angling for an extension,
Both the Forestville and West Bristol school building committees threw out construction manager bids based on the existing timetable. Members said the positions would be bid again with the tighter construction schedule.
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