High bids lead to cuts in Natalia ISD construction plans

The Natalia ISD school board approved a scaled-back set of construction plans during their meeting on December 9, 2019, after bids submitted for the work came in over budget.
Construction Manager Helen Keaton pegged the bid date on the new plans for January 28, with a goal of Board approval at the meeting scheduled for February 10.
“If we start on the 10th of February, we will finish construction in May 2021,” Keaton said. “So we’ll still be right on time for the school year in the fall.”
Voters approved a $10.7 million bond in November 2018. After accounting for architecture, engineering, construction management, and other miscellaneous fees and contingencies, as well as the $244,690 relocation of the MDF room in Package I of the project, approximately $8,875,310 remains for Package II, which includes the construction of a new junior high wing and junior high/elementary cafeteria, the remodeling of the current junior high cafeteria into a Band Hall, demolition of buildings.
All three bids received were over budget, with Guido Construction coming in at almost $12,400,000, followed by Bartlett Cocke at $14,388,000, and Lee Lewis Construction at $14,752,000.
A fourth company, SPS Construction, submitted a late bid that was not reviewed.

The original civil scope of the 2018 bond construction project, highlighted in gray, was cut down to the area shown in red after all three bids received were over budget.
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The Board charged Superintendent Dr. Hensley Cone to meet with Keaton, architect Jorge Flores of Garza/Bomberger & Associates, and campus principals and directors to come to a consensus about what cuts and changes to make to the initial plan in order to come in on budget.
Cone said that in community meetings leading up to the Nov. 2018 election, the district explicitly stated the bond would be used to build a new junior high wing, a new cafeteria for the elementary and junior high, remodel the current junior high cafeteria into a band hall, and demolish old buildings.
“So those things that we said we were going to do explicitly are the things that we’re still focusing on at this particular time,” Cone said.
Projects that were contingent upon available money included remodeling the elementary gym, the junior high gym, the PE area at the elementary school, and restrooms at the baseball and softball fields.
“Obviously we’re not going to have the money for all this stuff,” Board President Eric Smith said. “But I do think we need to be proactive and put together a five-year plan as a district on getting everybody’s feedback on what’s important to us as a district.”
Flores said that cuts that were being made included civil engineering projects such as drainage and landscaping, as well as two of four planned solo practice rooms inside the new Band Hall.
The free space left will be used for storage, and can be converted into practice rooms in the future.
Smith expressed frustration about having to scale back the project.
“It’s very disappointing that a lot of things we thought we were going to get we’re not getting,” Smith said. “We don’t get to do this every other year like a lot of districts, we get to do this once every ten, and it’s just a lot of egg on our face as a district.
“There are a lot of things that are needs that are not going to be met, and it’s disappointing.”
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer

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