Costs rising for Ressie Jeffries project

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County likely needs to spend more money to fix up Ressie Jeffries Elementary School.

The Board of Supervisors learned Tuesday that the cost to build an addition, replace the school roof and expand the parking lot exceeds early estimates by almost $1 million. The total cost of both projects comes in at $4.48 million, not including certain costs and contingencies.

The Joint School Building Committee has recommended that the county move forward with the project as proposed and cover the cost overrun with a loan from the special projects twice-a-year funding reserve. Supervisors plan to take action on the recommendation at their Aug. 16 meeting.

The county’s fiscal 2017 budget includes almost $3.5 million for the project, leaving a deficit of $983,376. The meals tax and enterprise zone should generate some additional revenue to help cover the project cost, County Administrator Douglas Stanley told the board at its work session. The county should make up the deficit over the next two budget cycles given the project’s planned completion in the fall of 2017, Stanley added.

The project ranks at the top of the School Board’s priorities and places second on the county’s capital projects list, Stanley said.

The Front Royal Warren County Economic Development Authority and the county intend to include the work as part of the New Market Tax Credit project, which would reduce the cost of the improvements. However, the county isn’t counting on the tax credits to complete the project, Stanley noted.

“Worst-case scenario is we can loan ourselves that money, if need be, and I think the other aspect is the wild card of the EDA’s New Market Tax Credit program, which could substantially cover (the cost overrun),” Stanley said. “But I think we would know by this fall whether or not the tax credit program would be able to include this project and, if so, how much of the project cost we would save in anticipation of that program.”

Pennoni and Moseley Architects designed a new parking lot to accommodate 50-75 additional vehicles. Moseley Architects designed a new entrance to the school building and the roof replacement.

Lance Construction of Winchester submitted the sole bids to build both projects at a total cost of $5.26 million.

The initial estimate to replace the roof put the cost at $2.5 million, an amount based in part on the $2 million price for the same project on the former 15th Street school, which is now the Health and Human Services Complex. A security vestibule was added to the project after the initial estimates were calculated.

Lance offered to build the Ressie Jeffries roof and entrance project for $4.49 million. With the bid 50 percent over the estimate, county officials asked the architect to work with Lance to “value engineer,” or change the design to bring the cost closer to the estimate. A different roof membrane replaced the standing metal seam to reduce the cost to $2.98 million. However, to meet the project goal of reducing “water intrusion,” or leaks, and to improve the “optics,” or appearance, architects restored the standing metal seam to the front of the school and its west wing. Meanwhile, the back two portions of the school would receive a flat membrane roof. Designers also restored the replacement canopy to the project. The Joint School Building Committee recommended a project with a cost of $3.71 million. While the latest version reduces the cost overrun by $785,700, the price still comes in at approximately $1.2 million over the estimate.

Initial estimates put the cost to expand and renovate the parking lot at $500,000. Lance offered to build the project for $699,800. The addition of curb and gutter inside the parking lot along Criser Road, as required by the town, brought the project cost to $768,000. Officials said they felt the bid fell in line with the estimate given the items added. The Joint School Building Committee recommended moving forward with the entire project as bid.

The county spent approximately $230,000 on engineering and architectural services provided by Pennoni and Moseley.

Meanwhile, the School Board started its energy-performance contract with Ameresco Inc for various savings measures and improvements to include the heating, ventilation and air conditioning, LED lighting, low-flow toilets and faucets and replacement of exterior doors, flooring and ceiling.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com