Second Waggoner Elementary construction estimate returns with smaller costs

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The Winters High School PE Music Building construction has started full-time. The project, funded by Measures D, P, and W, started with some delays due to rain and the need to relocate a fire water line in the building’s foundation line, as well as some soil issues that the soil inspector has since cleared. 

Mary Fitzpatrick, Senior Project Manager with Van Pelt Construction Services, expressed her hope that “once we get out of the dirt, everything will be smoother and we can pick up and fast track some of the schedule to get back on schedule.” She said construction crews are hoping to move forward with underground electrical and plumbing while keeping an eye out for rain.

Fitzpatrick presented to the board an update on the Waggoner Elementary building construction. Previously, Fitzpatrick reported to the board that the cost estimate provided by the Cummings construction team was several million over budget, and the board approved a second estimate to determine if the first was overly cautious. 

At the Nov. 17 Winters Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting, Fitzpatrick presented a follow-up to the previous talking points. This second estimate, conducted by Sierra West, provided a bottom line of $10,902,220, over $5 million less than Cummings’ original estimated bottom line of $15,936,243. 

In order to provide a more detailed picture of where the differences lay, Fitzpatrick broke down the estimates. She first explained that the hard costs, what she called “direction construction totals of building the actual building” of Sierra West’s estimate was $8,024,212 against Cummings’ $9,712,354, a difference of $1.7 million. 

The markup totals “the percentages on some of the items like contingency, bond insurance, general requirements,” Fitzpatrick said, came out to Sierra West estimating $3,423,118 while Cummings estimated $6,223,868, a difference of $2.8 million. However, Fitzpatrick noted that Sierra West’s original estimate did not include contractor contingency and that she added about five percent contingency to the estimate she provided to the board, which was a few hundred thousand higher than the number in Sierra West’s estimate. 

With that number added, Fitzpatrick said the difference between the estimates is closer to a $4.8 million difference, with Sierra West’s number still much lower. 

When asked to clarify the reasons behind the discrepancy, Fitzpatrick explained that Cummings was using a, “more conservative approach, which I always lean towards, but at the same time we have to be realistic,” and that Cummings’ estimate may have been, “too conservative.” 

“I think Sierra (West) is a little more adequate to what we will be seeing, even when I break down their square footage cost, Sierra West is closer to 940 (per) square feet, versus Cummings at 1,312 (per) square feet,” Fitzpatrick said which was a number more in line with other similar construction costs that were around $800 per square foot.

Brie Gargano, a representative from Studio West, also clarified where the cost differences were coming from. 

“The biggest thing is individual line items,” Gargano said noting that in some specific numbers “Sierra West is higher” but that each opinion from each of the respective company’s estimators adds up to a lower number on Sierra West’s estimate. 

Board Clerk Joedy Michael also noted that Cummings’ estimate was conducted in the summer before inflation numbers had begun to stabilize and that their conservative calculations may have taken that into account. 

Trustee Everardo Zaragoza said of the estimate, “the bad news is we’re still short on what we have available, but we do have the grant still available so hopefully that pulls through,” referring to a DSA grant that the district may be granted to help with construction costs, though Fitzgerald noted the district won’t know until January if they will receive the grant. 

The new estimates did not include potential cuts to the construction plan, and Gargano and Fitzgerald noted that the construction plan can still be altered to have fewer costs should the school district not receive a grant.

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