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Officials mull higher costs for Lyons Township High projects

<p>Lyons Township High School South Campus  | Sun-Times Media file photo</p>

Lyons Township High School South Campus  | Sun-Times Media file photo

Lyons Township High School officials are reevaluating an ambitious list of renovation projects after bids for the work came in $2.8 million higher than expected.

DLA Architects Ltd., based in Itasca, had projected $20 million as the total cost, which includes overhauling the Reber Center stage and auditorium, cafeteria and locker rooms at the north campus in La Grange.

Plans also include reconstructing the tennis courts at the south campus in Western Springs. A total of eight science labs at both campuses also will be renovated, and the main entrance to the south campus will be reconfigured to improve security.

School Board member Thomas Cushing, chairman of the facilities committee, said several factors resulted in higher bids.

The architects reported certain additions to the scope of work were incorporated into the bid specifications without the expectation of added cost, Cushing said. Some changes were made without updating school officials, he added.

Higher costs also were due to the need to finish a great deal of work during the summer, requiring extra manpower and overtime. Mechanical, electrical and plumbing bids came in higher than anticipated, as did asbestos abatement costs.

Several board members were critical of the architects’ shortfall in the cost estimate.

“It’s unfathomable how they could mess this up twice,” said Todd Shapiro.

He referred to bids that were $3.3 million over projected costs a decade ago to build the Performing Arts Center, pool and fieldhouse at the south campus.

The board has several options to proceed, but members said more information is needed before reaching a decision. The architects pledged to consult bidders on their costs and provide a more detailed breakdown of costs for each project.

The board could separate the projects, attracting smaller contractors who may provide lower bids. Bundling all the projects together attracts larger, but fewer contractors, who may offer prices based on economy of scale.

The board also could choose to scale back some of the projects by changing bid specifications, or seek bids at a later time when the market could be more favorable.

“The numbers are the numbers,” said board President Mark Pera. “If we rebid, there’s no certainty the bids would come back lower, or if we wait a year, there’s no certainty the bids would come back lower.”

The board has issued $20.1 million in bonds to pay for the projects over the next decade and has three years in which to spend the money on construction.

Pera also noted the possibility of using LT fund balances to help finance the projects. School officials did so when faced with higher costs in 2004, rather than scrap plans to build the fieldhouse, he said.

Members will meet to review options for proceding with the projects at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 29 in the board room at the north campus, 100 S. Brainard Ave., La Grange.

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