WENATCHEE — New double-door vestibules designed to make Wenatchee schools safer will take another year.
The logistics aren’t lining up for construction this summer given the tight design timeline and shortage of interested contractors.
The Wenatchee School Board last week agreed with a recommendation from the district’s architect and facilities manager to postpone putting the district-wide safety construction projects out for bid until the new year.
Other pieces of the security upgrade project that don’t require outside contractors will move forward, including installing fences around portables and technology infrastructure improvements related to alarms and notification systems, along with a new phone system for Wenatchee High School.
A security upgrade project for the Wenatchee Valley Technical Skills Center’s Building A also will move forward this summer. It was carved out of the district-wide improvements into a standalone $99,688 project because it has its own funding source — from “major works” state grant dollars carried over from WVTSC’s construction project that included the remodel of Building B and new construction of Building C. The remaining grant funds, first awarded in 2014, must be spent by June 30.
The skills center project includes electronic access and hardware upgrades at the main entry doors, a video intercom system, new fire alarm system and a corridor extension to provide secure access to the fire science classroom.
Funds for the other district safety improvements are coming from about $3 million of voter-approved construction bond proceeds that previously had been earmarked for a new high school. Last fall, the board approved changing how those funds could be spent, adding safety improvements and a new classroom portable at Sunnyslope Elementary School. Law requires the funds to be used for facilities, as opposed to operations.
The hope had been to complete — or at least start — all the construction projects this summer, said Gregg Herkenrath, the district’s facilities manager.
“This is a little different than what we’ve talked about in the past. We talked about our aggressive schedule to get this project out this summer,” he said. “We’re at a point now that we feel it would be more beneficial to the district to modify the schedule a little bit.”
The extra time could pay off, said architect Paul Coppock of DOH Associates, both financially and in the designs.
His company recently advertised a relatively small project that received just one bid at more than three times the estimate.
“We are seeing this in the marketplace right now. People are busy. We’re not getting good bids. We’re not getting competitive bids,” he said. “Gregg has gotten good counsel that probably the best thing to do is get somebody under contract by the first of the year or near the first of the year so people have time to prepare. Catch them while they aren’t busy and are building their schedules for the summer.”
The projects themselves also are still in flux.
“We met today on a couple of schools and are still tweaking some of the plans at this point in time,” Coppock said. “As some of these folks have had time to think about the circumstances, they are realizing there is a better way to do it than what we were originally planning. So we are trying to accommodate them.”
Herkenrath said the district’s operational technology staff will move forward with hardware upgrades needed to accommodate new electronic doors at the schools where the new entries are required. That work previously was going to be completed after the construction projects. Now that has flipped.
“We will do good improvements this summer, continue to work on the project design with staff and finish it up next summer,” Herkenrath said.
The Eastmont School District is facing a similar challenge with its construction bids on projects it hoped to get started this summer. It extended the bid deadline to early June in hopes of getting contractors interested. The back-up plan is to reopen bidding in the winter, with work to get started in summer 2021.