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Brainerd Public Schools: Board awards higher than expected bids for new early childhood center

Bids for the project came in at $4,954,258.57, roughly $1 million over the estimated construction cost.

New early childhood center
A new Brainerd Public Schools early childhood center will reside in a remodeled version of the current Baxter Elementary School. Construction is set to begin fall 2020 and be completed in 2021. The public can vote on a name for the facility at www.blueprint181.com. Photo courtesy of Brainerd Public Schools
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Despite higher than estimated bids on the latest building project, the Brainerd School District is still in a good financial position with construction projects, according to project managers.

School board members awarded contracts for the new early childhood center during their meeting Monday, March 9. With what project managers described as an influx of construction projects in the region driving up competition and costs, bids came in about $1 million over budget to remodel the current Baxter Elementary School for the new facility.

The project includes a new secure main entrance on the north side of the building, where parent drop-off and pick-up will also be. Parking will remain on the north side as well and be expanded with the demolition of the two-story fourth grade wing on the northwest side of the building.

Buses will drop students off on Fairview Road on the south side of the building. That entrance will be locked during school hours.

Inside, the current library and media center will be opened up for more hallway space and to help with flow and navigation for the young students.

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School readiness areas will be spread throughout the facility, and parent education rooms will be mixed in with early childhood family education spaces.

The “appendix” — a wing jutting out from the northeast side of the building — will house school readiness programs, like Kinderclub.

Bids for the project came in at $4,954,258.57, roughly $1 million over the estimated construction cost. Project managers from ICS, the consulting firm working on the projects, proposed two cost-saving measures that would knock the price down about $430,000, but still leave the project over budget. Those proposals included reducing the scope of work in the kitchen — which may have to occur anyway because of building code standards — and reducing the scope of work on the northeast wing of the building. In the northeast wing, the designs include a bathroom between the two school readiness rooms, which consultants said could be omitted to save money.

Superintendent Laine Larson said after hearing from early childhood staff, she learned that bathroom was an important feature of the remodel when dealing with young students.

“Otherwise the kids would have to go out into the hall to use the bathroom, and there’s a supervision issue and some of those kinds of things,” Larson said. “... Although there are some options where we could reduce the scope, it might be the best solution in the long run.”

Even with the high bids, Project Manager Damien Williams said the district still has $1.4 million of uncommitted funds available for elementary school projects because of bids coming in lower on other projects and funds from interest on bond sales. The district also has $3 million in its contingency fund.

“We’re in really good shape financially,” Larson said. “But it’s clearly up to the board to decide if you want to go forward with this.”

The board agreed to move forward with the project as originally planned.

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The board awarded the following contracts:

  • Earthwork, exterior, improvements, utilities — Anderson Brothers Construction, $436,720.57.

  • General construction — Baratto Brothers, $1,840,000.

  • Roofing — Thelen Heating & Roofing, $249,800.

  • Food service equipment — Culinex, $82,800.

  • Fire suppression — LVC Cos., $68,761.

  • Mechanical — Thelen Heating & Roofing, $1,347,800.

  • Electrical — Holden Electric, $928,377.

Construction on the new facility is set to start in fall 2020 and be completed in 2021.

Naming the facility

Voting is underway for a name for the new early childhood center.

After receiving community input, three names are in the final running:

  • Lakeview Early Childhood Center,

  • Brainerd Lakes Area Early Childhood Center, and

  • Warrior Early Learning Center.

The public is invited to vote on the final name at blueprint181.org before March 20. The school board is expected to make a final decision at its meeting March 23.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .
Related Topics: EDUCATION
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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