Teacher Lyn Gatz shows where water pours into her classroom at Mount Desert Island High School whenever a strong wind blows rain against the side of the building. Replacement of leaky walls and windows has been put off for a year. PHOTO BY DICK BROOM

‘Hokey’ bids inflate school leak fix costs

BAR HARBOR — Replacement of the leaky walls and windows at Mount Desert Island High School will have to be put off for a year because of both money and time constraints.

Members of the school’s trustees board informally made that decision Monday, but they couldn’t take an official vote because of the lack of a quorum. (See related story, page 1.)

The trustees have budgeted $244,177 for the project, which was to have been done this summer. But the low bid was more than three times that amount.

Architect Mike Sealander, who has designed the project, told the trustees that because of a “math error” in his office, the cost of the project was initially underestimated.

But that wasn’t the only reason for the discrepancy. Initially, only the windows and exterior walls in the school’s academic wing were to be rebuilt. But the outside wall of the art room, which faces an interior courtyard, has started leaking. And school officials decided it would make sense to replace all of the walls and windows that, while not yet leaking, were installed the same way as part of an expansion and renovation project 15 years ago. New walls would be much more energy efficient.

King Construction Services of Jonesport submitted the low bid of $801,700 for the entire project, including $280,777 for just the academic wing.

Sealander told the trustees Monday that there probably are a couple of additional reasons for the higher-than-expected bids.

One reason, he said, is that the bid requests went out so late that some companies that might otherwise have been interested already had committed to other work for this summer and didn’t feel they could take on more work.

“The bidding climate will be much more favorable if we re-bid this in March or even February,” Sealander said.

He said at least a couple of the companies that did submit bids have had little or no experience with certain aspects of the type of installation required, so they inflated their bids to cover potential difficulties.

“The bids were, for lack of a better term, hokey enough that I believe we could work with [one or more of the companies] and re-look at the numbers and come up with substantial savings to the school,” Sealander said. “When I say substantial, I mean on the order of $100,000 or so.”

The trustees who were at the meeting agreed that, given the scope of the project and the uncertainty about the bids, the work should be postponed until next summer.

“My impression is that we don’t have time to do it this year,” trustee Steve Hudson said.

Principal Matt Haney agreed.

“Even if we had all the money in the world and we said yes right now, there’s no way this whole thing gets done this summer,” he said. “I am really squirrely about any project that we start at any point in August because things never go exactly on time.”

Sealander said he could work up revised cost estimates for the project in two or three weeks. Then the trustees will meet again to decide how to proceed.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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