Economic silver lining: Portland gets lower-than-expected bids for school construction
PORTLAND — City officials say bids for construction projects are coming in below estimates because contractors are hungry for work.
The city opened bids May 21 for construction of a new elementary school at the site of the old Baxter School, and found all the bids were at least $2 million less than the city thought the project would cost.
"We've seen similar bid results in other projects," said Ellen Sanborn, the city's finance director. "We're getting a benefit from the current economy."
Sanborn said bids for separating combined sewer overflow systems also came in under estimate.
"There are a lot of projects on hold, and I think this is a product of that," Sanborn said.
The city estimated construction of the Ocean Avenue School at $14.5 million. But the highest of the nine bids submitted came in at about $12.5 million. The lowest bid was $10.7 million, submitted by Ledgewood Construction. That company is expected to be awarded the project in the next few weeks.
"The state has to check everything out first," Assistant City Manager Anita LaChance said. "There's no reason it shouldn't be awarded to the low bidder, though."
The state has to approve the contract because the school is being built with state school construction funds. City voters in June 2008 approved borrowing $19.7 million to fund the construction, almost all of which will be reimbursed by the state.
The Ocean Avenue School is planned for 150 Ocean Avenue. LaChance said she expected work at the site to begin on schedule on June 22. The first order of business will be demolition of the old Baxter School building.
Construction of the new school should take about two years, with occupation slated for fall 2011. LaChance said allowing a long period for construction played a part in getting low bids. Building permits are already in process, she said.
When the new, 450-student school opens it will signal the end of Nathan Clifford School. Those children will attend the Ocean Avenue School, along with students from neighborhoods that used to be served by Baxter School.