Hurricane Harvey pushes up Partnership School cost

October 11, 2017 11:10:32 AM

Alex Holloway - [email protected]


Recent natural disasters are making their presence felt in Starkville, as material prices for the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District's Partnership School have driven the overall project's cost up more than $2 million. 


Bruce Wood, with JH&H Architects, told the school board at Tuesday's meeting that Hurricane Harvey, which struck southeast Texas in late August, has created a tremendous increase in demand for sheetrock. 


"There was an increase we started seeing about a month ago from Hurricane Harvey with all the sheetrock," Wood said. "We economized the building with sheetrock, and I still believe the sheetrock is less expensive than concrete block walls everywhere. But Harvey did increase the cost of sheetrock labor and material also." 


The school, planned to be built on Mississippi State University's campus, will house the district's sixth and seventh graders and is scheduled to open its doors in fall 2019. SOCSD and the Mississippi Legislature are dedicating funds to the project, and MSU contributed land for the facility. 


According to a project budget summary Wood presented to the board, the hurricane will also push up the costs for insulation, doors, roofing materials, flooring products, cabinetry, PVC piping, HVAC equipment and electrical copper wiring. The cost increases are expected to carry over into 2018 and 2019. 


In all, the increases are expected to drive the project's cost up nearly 7 percent, from $29.478 million in an estimate issued in May to an estimated $31.520 million now. Much of that increase, according to the summary, will likely come in the building construction cost, which has jumped from an estimated $23.411 million to $25.286 million. 


Despite the increase, Wood said the project price didn't jump as much as it could have. 


"I was actually kind of pleased that it did not go up more than that, given the circumstances with the hurricanes," Wood said. 


He also said the prices could change, between now and when the district opens bids on Nov. 9. 


"It could come in under this," he said. "We just don't know. You could have big swings in prices for each and every subcontractor." 


Wood's presentation included alternates he said were taken out of the base bid. He said they are needed items for the school, but the building could be initially occupied and used without them. 


The alternates -- security film for the lower floor exterior glass and interior corridor, bleachers in the gym, operable walls in select classrooms, trellis for the cafeteria's outdoor dining and enhanced landscaping along the entrance drive and Perry -- cost a combined estimated $791,000. 


Board President Keith Coble said he hopes that competition for the project will help push prices down. However, he said if they stay high, the district will have to find ways to deal with the increased project cost. 


"We've got some add-ons there so we can reduce costs if need be," Coble said. "Hopefully there's competition. We've got our fingers crossed that it will not be as high as he says, but if it is what it is, we've got the funding from the university, funding from the state, and we've got to be very aggressive about trying to find the funding from our bond resources that got held back." 


The board also learned during Tuesday's meeting that the district has about $7.8 million in its fund balance. Coble said the board hasn't discussed possibly dipping into those funds for the school, but could, if needed. 


"We don't want to go there, but if we have to - I don't think anybody is suggesting that we back up at all," he said.