WENATCHEE — Fence builders were getting $13 an hour 15 months ago, when Paul Coppock started putting together cost estimates for projects designed to increase the safety of Wenatchee schools.

The DOH Associates architect told Wenatchee School Board members Dec. 10 that prevailing wage for fence builders is now around $40 an hour, which explains, in part, why bids on the fencing project came back higher than anticipated.

“We did have a surprise on the fencing,” he said. “Wages doubled. That was something we learned with our walkthrough with the bidders. It’s something that’s catching them off-guard as well. If you’re doing a roofing project, it’s the same thing.”

Contractors are required to pay prevailing wage on projects using public funds. The state Department of Labor and Industries shows prevailing wages for roofers went from $20 and hour in 2018 to a current $43 an hour. The current wage for fencing erectors in Chelan County is $38.59.

The district’s fencing project, which includes fencing and gates at three elementary schools, two middle schools and WestSide High School, received a lone bid from Wesslen Construction Inc., for $248,039.75 ($268,875.09 with sales tax).

Despite being the only bid and above the estimate, Gregg Herkenrath, the school district’s facilities director, recommended the school board accept it.

“We’re happy with it,” Herkenrath said. “We felt it is in line with our budget and 10% in this bid environment is pretty favorable.”

Coppock said the general rule of thumb is project costs are 50% materials and 50% labor.

“We were figuring it could have gone up by a quarter, about $50,000. That’s another reason to be happy with the number,” he said.

The district has two other safety and security projects out to bid that will be opened in January. One is for changes to some school entrances, along with some gates and door locks, which are all similar components, Herkenrath said. The other bid is for concrete improvements.

The safety projects are being paid for from the $3-plus million in bond proceeds and state matching funds remaining from previous construction projects. Those funds initially had been earmarked for a new high school.

Last fall, after a series of public hearings, the board voted to use the $3 million for security upgrades and a new portable classroom for Sunnyslope Elementary School. Law requires the funds to be used for facilities, as opposed to operations.

The decision to move forward with the school-wide security measures followed the February 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

All three pieces of the project are expected to be complete by August.

Prevailing wage information is available on the Department of Labor website at wwrld.us/2sectIN.

Nevonne McDaniels: 664-7151