Pottsgrove High Makeover Gets Directors’ Green Light

POTTSTOWN PA – A makeover of Pottsgrove High School that includes renovated classrooms, science laboratory additions and upgrades, extra security measures, high energy-efficiency, a new gymnasium, athletic field repairs and drainage solutions, and a new artificial turf field won approval Monday (April 28, 2014) from the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors for what the school district said was an under-budget direct cost of about $28.1 million.

An artist's rendering of the proposed new look for the Pottsgrove High School cafeteria that is part of the renovation project

An artist’s rendering of the proposed new look for the Pottsgrove High School cafeteria that is part of the renovation project

Once completed, however, the total bill for the project could rise to as much as $33 million when “soft costs” like some professional and legal fees, and a contingency fund that represents 5 percent of project costs, were added, director Rick Rabinowitz warned.

The renovation will take about three years to complete, and will occur in stages intended to minimize disruption to classes and activities. It will begin this June. Board President Justin Valentine repeated the administration’s claim that district taxes would not be increased by the renovation package, because Pottsgrove has paid off other debts to allow for its related new loans.

Several votes were required on different components of the project, almost all of them unanimous among the nine-member board. The only dissension arose over installation of the turf field, a new softball field and accompanying lighting. They were opposed by Rabinowitz in an 8-1 vote; he expressed concerns about their $1.3 million cost and potential safety hazards posed by artificial turf to athletes.

The district’s design team, KCBA Architects of Hatfield PA, also reported Pottsgrove’s attempt to win a $2 million state grant to lower renovation costs while improving the building’s energy efficiency would likely pay off. The project is expected to be certified by a national rating organization as meeting its second-highest standards for environmental “friendliness” at a price of substantially less than the grant amount.

Directors were generally pleased that contractors’ bids for the project came in below expectations, interpreted as a sign of their eagerness to compete for the job. All of the winning bidders have previously done work for Pottsgrove, they said.

The base building bid of about $27.5 million includes $16.5 million for general construction services, awarded to E.R. Stuebner Inc.; $5.14 million, mechanical construction services, Frey Lutz Corp.; $4.18 million, electrical construction services, MBR Construction Services Inc.; $1.44 million, plumbing construction services, Integrity Mechanical Inc.; and $107,000, asbestos abatement services, Sargent Enterprises Inc.

The cost of attaining LEED Gold environmental and energy efficiency certification to comply with the grant requirements was priced at an additional $376,000, including about $231,000 for extra construction expenses, $90,000 in architects’ fees, and another $55,000 in consultancy fees.

The athletic field installations and improvements were priced at $1.28 million.

The Bethlehem PA-based firm of D’Huy Engineering was hired at a cost of $559,150 to provide construction management services instead of a traditional clerk of the works.

Editor’s Note: The Post did not attend this meeting. This story was constructed relying on figures from the district, social media reports published by Pottstown Mercury reporter Evan Brandt and district resident Al Leach, and comments from those who were in attendance.

Related (to Pottsgrove High reconstruction):

Photo from KCBA Architects