School is out for summer, but Owensboro and Daviess County public school systems are not taking a break from moving forward with summer projects -- which both districts say have come back over budget following their bidding processes.

Owensboro Public Schools plan to open up a new middle school at the site of the former Owensboro Middle School-South campus -- previously the 5-6 Center -- and will be completing renovations this summer with hopes to finish before students step back in classrooms in August.

The Innovation Middle School, or iMiddle, will be modeled after the Owensboro Innovation Academy and will be part of the district's innovation program that is already in place, acting as a sister school and feeder to the OIA. While the OIA uses STEM-based career pathways for high school students, iMiddle would have a liberal arts focus using museums as a tool.

The renovations include site paving, ADA toilets, remodeling existing space for new band and choir rooms, a new family resource center and building two resource rooms. Also, the media center and cafeteria will be expanded, and one computer lab will be constructed along with one administrative suite.

The project originally was to cost about $11.1 million, most of which, Superintendent Nick Brake said, would be spent on energy and other mechanical items that needed an upgrade, such as the roof, HVAC and lighting. He said the building is the district's most inefficient, and that these upgrades will amount to a $485,000 savings over 10 years.

RBS Design, the architecture and design group heading the project, has told school board members the project came back almost $2 million more than they budgeted -- $13.3 million.

Craig Thomas, a principal architect with RBS Design, said a lot of variables play into projects coming back over budget, including the number of contractors in the area willing to complete the work.

He said the strong economy is also impacting prices.

"The number of unemployed is very low," Thomas said, and contractor's plates are full.

Before bidding a project, RBS Design gives their customer what is called an opinion of probable cost, which Thomas said changes depending on market conditions and the state of area contractors.

"When there is little work, the contractors are hungry. When there's a lot of work, the contractors are full, not as hungry," he said.

There were also items added to the iMiddle project as it moved forward.

Chris Bozarth, OPS director of maintenance, said the original pre-bid estimate of cost did not include re-doing the electrical at the building or adding some roofing structure due to fire codes. When completing pre-bid estimates, he said "you don't necessarily climb through the attics until you need to," which accounts for not knowing about the fire code violations when it came to the roofing materials that needed replacement.

"And honestly, there could have been some more time spent at it before a cost estimate was given," he said.

Still, OPS is moving forward with the project this summer, and plans for the first group of sixth- through eighth-grade students to enter the newly-remodeled facility in August for the 2019-20 school year.

Daviess County Public Schools officials are still hopeful the Apollo and Daviess County high school stadiums will be operational during the upcoming school year.

In 2018, the board of education approved $15.1 million for the two projects, which entailed building a new $9.3 million Apollo Eagle Stadium and a $5.8 million renovation to Daviess County High School's Reid Stadium. The $15.1 million was the original pre-bid estimate. The current cost of both stadiums is $16.88 million, which breaks down to $10.2 million for Apollo and $6.6 million for DCHS.

Both projects were scheduled to be completed this summer, but some setbacks have caused delays.

David Shutt, DCPS director of maintenance, said Apollo experienced some issues with soil that required stabilization to the tune of $114,620, and at DCHS, some unforeseen underground utilities had to be adjusted, which cost an additional $18,451.

The current total cost of both projects is now $16.8 million -- $10.2 for Apollo, and $6.6 for DCHS.

Mike Ranney, with RBS Design, said the difference in these costs is due to a lot of factors "that nobody has control of."

The difference in price from the pre-bid estimates to the results of the actual bids is market-driven, he said, which depends on prices of materials and the availability of labor.

Like Thomas, Ranney reiterated that there are a lot of construction projects going on in the area.

"When you have so much work to do, the competition between projects gets stiffer," he said. "If the contractors are busy, they aren't going to bid, and they aren't going to bid the same favorable price as what they would if there wasn't so much work out there."

Apollo's stadium is scheduled to be complete this fall, with the district hopeful to be able to play its final home football game in the stadium on Oct. 25. Reid Stadium is expected to be complete by the first game of the year, with the track being finished in early August and the stadium in full use by Aug. 30.

Both projects first began in 2016 as a $3.5 million "spruce up" of the tracks and fields at each of the district high schools. It wasn't until early 2017 when the board passed a third nickel tax, which would be used for a major renovation and addition to Apollo High School and the building of a new Daviess County Middle School, when those plans changed.

Upon review of the Apollo renovations, it was determined that some of the space used for the current parking lot would need to be used for an addition to the school. That meant the parking lot would need to move to the area where Apollo's stadium currently is, and a new stadium would be built along Southtown Boulevard between the current tennis courts and existing farmland.

Apollo's new stadium will have a new entry building, with restrooms and concessions, and because the facility is being built about a quarter of a mile from the school, a field house, with locker rooms, restrooms and concessions, was required to help service students and visitors.

The district seeks to be equitable with each of its high schools, so when the new Apollo Eagle Stadium was slated to be built it was determined to be the right time to do some much-needed upgrades to Reid Stadium.

The renovation at Reid Stadium includes a revamp and remodel of the existing bleachers on the hill that have been there for decades. It required cutting into the hill and adding additional bleacher seating and sprucing up the press box. The facility will also be providing more ADA seating at the top and bottom of the stadium.

A new track will be designed and installed at both stadiums, as well as new synthetic turf fields. The "broken back" track, as the design is called, will allow it to be more elongated to fit a wide soccer infield, allowing the football field to double as a soccer field. That, and the new entry building that will include concessions, a ticket booth and restrooms, will be the most expensive part of the project, along with the installation of new LED lights.

The parking lot at DCHS will also be redone, providing for safer entry and egress, as well as more parking space.

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315.

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