Natalia ISD presses pause on junior high gym renovation

The Natalia ISD Board of Trustees voted unanimously to postpone awarding a bid to a general contractor for renovation of the Natalia Junior High School gym during the Regular meeting held on February 28.
Superintendent Harry Piles explained that the gym renovation, along with the purchase new band uniforms and Phase II of rekeying around the district, was part the long range capital projects approved by the Board last year.
Piles said that the district had around $800,000 available for the projects, and as renovation plans moved forward, the rekeying was paused in order to focus on the gym.
“I believe last month in particular I basically said my concern was that it looks like projections are going to be quite a bit higher,” Piles said, adding that square footage cost projections of between $300 and $500 led him to believe more money would be needed. “Now that being said, I was nowhere prepared for the bids that came in.”
Nick Tuttle of architecture firm ACGM, Inc., said that the four gym renovation bids received ranged between $1.5 million and $1.8 million.
“The last two months between December and now, we’ve got this course correction with products that just aren’t there,” Tuttle said. “We’ve got low labor rates, a lot lower than what we need. And it’s going to reflecting, finally, in our bid prices, which I think is a classic case of what happened here.”
Tuttle said that the original scope of the desired renovation included a new floor, new bleachers, improved lighting, removal of old fire insulation, and possibly the removal of the stage, as well as painting and touchups.
What Tuttle described as “scope creep” led to the inclusion of additional changes, such as locker room relocation and renovation of the restrooms, concession stand, and ticket booth.
Other issues include the replacement of a fire alarm system that is at the end of its life and no longer has parts available for needed repairs, as well as tying the public address system into the rest of the campus.
The renovations must also be ADA compliant.
“AGCM would like to see this project through, primarily for the administration of Natalia ISD, but most importantly for the students in the community that the school district services,” Tuttle said. “However, we never want to put a client in a financial pinch, and we depend on you to advise us on what that looks like.”
Tuttle suggested that the Board allow Piles to research value engineering and additional funding sources for the gym renovation before making a decision on the project.
A motion by President Eric Smith and Vice President Tiffany Rodriguez to allow Piles to perform that research and report back to the Board in March passed 6-0 with support from Secretary Gordon Gentry and members Paul Almendarez, Fernando Garza, and Mireya Vanderslice. Member Andrew Besa was absent.
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer