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Renovation Bid $12.9 M over Budget

County hopes to re-negotiate with lone bidder on South Lakes renovation.

Given the rise of construction costs recently, it was somewhat expected that the bid to renovate South Lakes High School would be more than budgeted, but not this much more.

The one and only bid that Fairfax County has received to complete the renovations at South Lakes is more than 30 percent over budget.

Early this month, Hess Construction submitted a base bid contract for $52.96 million, roughly $13 million more than the $40 million allotted in a bond referendum for construction costs, according to the county.

“One of the things we’re subject to is the marketplace,” said School Board member Stuart Gibson (Hunter Mill), referring to the rapid rise in construction costs that last few years. “Our design contractors are trying to negotiate a lower bid, which is why we didn’t vote on it last week.”

The Fairfax County School Board will vote on the contract Dec. 1, said Gibson. He doesn’t think the board will reject a re-negotiated bid. Rejecting this bid would stall renovations and if another bid process were necessary, construction costs could continue to increase.

To make up the difference, the county may look to reallocate funds. “My understanding is that there are some savings that we’ve realized in the past that may be used for the renovations,” said Gibson.

ACCORDING TO Cindy David Smith, a contract administrator with Facility and Transportation Services, Hess Construction also submitted two alternative construction options, which increase the bid’s total to $53,798,000, making the bid nearly $14 million more than expected. The options include $116,000 for a ceramic wall and $722,000 for sheet vinyl flooring, said Smith. The status of these options won’t be decided until Dec. 1.

Whether or not any original renovation designs will be cut has yet to be determined.

South Lakes principal Bruce Butler said that he knew the cost for construction supplies had been increasing at a rate faster than usual. “So, we could see it coming on some levels,” he said.

But Butler is confident that the renovations will stay on schedule and, for the most part, remain unaltered. “The county is looking at any and all options to make sure our school gets the renovation it needs and deserves,” said Butler. “But the bottom line is this: our project is a go.”

Once the renovations start, Butler expects teachers and students to be ready. He credited Shannon Tully, director of student services, for helping organize all the logistics for the renovations — a big task given about 30 classrooms will be located in trailers.

When completed, the renovations are expected to include about 20 new instructional classrooms, a new front office, increased technology capabilities, a new lecture hall, several added skylights and a revamped main entrance.

In 2003, voters overwhelmingly approved the school bond referendum, which included $57.3 million for all the planning, design and construction involved in South Lakes’ renovation. Construction costs were expected to cost $40 million. The school, which opened in 1979, has never been renovated.