The Andover Select Board will consider calling a special town meeting when it meets Monday night to see if the town will approve funding for the new West Elementary School, which is currently under construction.
“The West El school building committee will be requesting the board to call a special town meeting to address the fact that the bids have come in much higher than the original passed budget,” Select Board Chair Alex Vispoli said.
West Elementary School Building Committee Chairman Joel Blumstein will update the board on the project before it takes up the special town meeting item on its agenda. Supply chain issues and inflation have forced the cutbacks on some features of the new West Elementary School, which is scheduled to open in time for the 2024-25 school year.
“It’s not good news, but it’s very reflective of what’s going on in the whole country, and the whole world,” Joel Blumstein told the Andover Finance Committee last month. “It’s a tough time to be doing any construction project.”
At that meeting (photo above), Blumstein said the committee had rejected going back to town meeting to ask for more money, but the circumstances appear to have worsened since then. Construction bids were due earlier this month and, at the time of last month’s meeting, those bids were being reviewed by the project manager.
“The big question now is bidding out the rest of the project,” Blumstein (left in photo) said in August. “I really don’t know what [the project manager’s review] is going to show, but we should have that information soon. If we’re over budget, we’re going to have some difficult decisions on what to do.”
The $151.6 million project includes $119.2 million in actual construction costs. When the 90 percent construction documents were reviewed earlier this year, the project was about $5.5 million over budget. Blumstein said the committee was able to make up some of the difference by taking $2 million from a construction contingency and moving $500,000 from other budget items that had cost less than estimates.
The remaining $3 million, however, required the committee to make some “difficult decisions,” Blumstein said. The building committee made about 25 changes, including cutting one of the two elevators in the building’s design, eliminating one of two access points to the roof for maintenance staff, eliminating some built in “reading nooks” and changing or cutting back on certain materials.
Blumstein said the committee avoided changes that would have had a direct impact on education in the new school. He also said the committee considered and rejected putting the project on hold until costs came down or going back to town meeting to ask for more money to get the project back under budget.
Monday’s meeting begins at 7 p.m. and will be held at the School Administration Building at 30 Whittier Court.