Municipal Campus Total Bids $195,726 Over Budget

LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – Contractor bidding on the Lower Pottsgrove municipal campus project, proposed for East High Street and South Pleasant View Road, came in $194,726 or 2.6 percent over budget, the township Board of Commissioners acknowledged Monday (May 3, 2021). They agreed to await their architect’s analysis of bids received before deciding which, if any, they might accept.

Solicitor Charles Garner reminded board members they have 90 days from the April 13 (Tuesday) bid opening in which to make any decisions. Architect Randy Galiotto of the Bethlehem PA-based firm Alloy 5, who attended Monday’s board meeting, said his team will examine the bids, bid documents, and related data “for several weeks” before offering guidance.

Commissioners have plenty of time to make choices they believe are in the township’s best interests, Garner assured them. He and Alloy 5 would review the documents “to make sure the bidders are qualified, and gave you the right answers,” Garner said.

The total of only the lowest responsible bids for five phases of construction – general construction, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning; electrical, plumbing, and fire protection – amounted to $7,673,331. That sum includes contingency funds in all phases except fire protection, a Galiotto presentation showed.

However, it excludes an additional $940,000 in projected “soft costs” like professional fees, permits, insurance, and other items. The combined construction and soft costs total $8,613,331. “That’s a lot of damn money,” former Commissioner Tony Doyle charged. “When this thing started it was nowhere near” that much, he said.

Complicating the board’s ability to independently study the results ahead of Monday’s meeting, Commissioner Michael McGroarty publicly noted, was that some figures presented by Galiotto were updated from those board members received in advance, and the newer numbers had not yet been distributed to them.

Members of the board meeting audience, who gathered with commissioners at Sunnybrook Ballroom, could be seen shaking their heads as Galiotto talked. Some of them were there to later discuss the school resource officer position (SRO) at Pottsgrove High School, which the board has considered cutting. To them, a few publicly said, keeping the SRO appeared to be a better value at lower expense.

The deadline for receiving bids had been set for April 5, then was re-set to April 6, and then scheduled once more for April 13. The intent was to give bidders more time to submit figures after Easter Sunday (April 4). Ultimately, Alloy 5 recommended a longer submission window because more contractors expressed a desire to bid.

That strategy succeeded, Galiotto explained. There were 25 active bidders involved, more than first expected, and “the time frame gave us those 25,” he reported. “It was a dogfight,” he said with a smile. Many bids were closely grouped, “and it all had to do with timing … We hit the market at the right time.”

An unhappy surprise in the bidding, what Galiotto called “the curve ball,” was electrical contracting. Alloy 5 expected its cost would come in at $598,395, including a $60,000 contingency margin. Instead the lowest bid offered was $1,194,300, including a $63,000 contingency. Among the five remaining contractors, bids ranged from $1.23 million to $1.63 million.

Plumbing contracting bids surprised too, but less dramatically. They were estimated in Alloy 5’s budget at $331,040, including a $70,000 contingency. The lowest bid arrived at $504,025 including a $15,000 contingency. The difference was $172,985.

“We’re still trying to understand the reasons” on both, Galiotto admitted.

Photos of Alloy 5 presentation slides by The Post
At top is a composite image created by The Post, with a silhouette photo of architect Randy Galiotto (taken Monday) superimposed over an earlier rendering of the municipal campus facade