Steamboat school board grapples with escalating building costs | SteamboatToday.com

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Steamboat school board grapples with escalating building costs

By the numbers:
Partial Steamboat Springs School District capital project list and
cost estimates from NV5 consulting firm

Deferred maintenance — $12.7 million
Upgrades, administration building — $5.1 million
Addition to high school — $5.7 million
New gym at Strawberry Park Elementary School — $3.3 million
Middle school remodel — $750,000
Subtotal: $27.5 million

The Steamboat Springs school board was presented Monday night with a graphic demonstration of the rapidly escalating cost of maintaining and building public school facilities in the Colorado mountains.

Colleen Kaneda, a project director for NV5, the school district's consultant helping it to decide how much money to ask school district voters for in November for building upgrades, told the board construction costs in 2018 will be higher than they would have been in 2017. The cost estimates she provided the board on everything from replacing failing roofs to building a new elementary school are rising at a rate of almost 15 percent annually.

When providing estimated costs for new gymnasiums, high school classrooms and deferred maintenance, she relied on actual 2015 costs for completed projects and bumped them higher to estimate what it might cost to build in the summer of 2018.

"Using hard cost data from 2015, we escalated to 2018 dollars based on what we've see in mountain school districts," Kaneda said. "We added escalation costs of 1.1 percent a month, so, 14.4 percent a year."

What does that mean?

Since 2015. the cost of re-roofing four district buildings has gone up 40 percent from $10 to $14 a square foot. The combined cost of re-roofing the high school, middle school, Strawberry Park elementary School, the administration building and the transportation building is expected to reach $5.3 million, Kaneda said.

The same 14.4 percent annual cost increases applies to adding classrooms to the high school, building a gym at Strawberry Park Elementary School or upgrading the heating and air conditioning system at the middle school.

"I'm in sticker shock. That's what's happening right here," school board member Michelle Dover said at the end of Kaneda's presentation.

Kaneda told the school board her estimate of the cost to build a much needed gym at Strawberry Park Elementary School is $4.6 million for a 9,000-square-foot space. Building a new elementary school to house 400 to 450 students could cost an estimated $39 million.

School board member Roger Good made the point that considering Kaneda's "a la carte" list of school district projects and their estimated costs was like buying an automobile, one bolt at a time. If the school district was to go forward with awarding a list of jobs to a single general contractor, the combined price would come in lower than the sum total of Kaneda's estimates, he predicted.

Building expert Todd Raper, who is collaborating with Kaneda, confirmed Good's impression.

"We would expect contractors' bids to go down as the amount of work increases," Raper said.

In addition to re-roofing the school buildings, the list of most urgent construction projects on the school district's list includes replacing the all-weather turf and running track at the high school and replacing heating and air conditioning at the middle school. The estimated combined price tag of those projects is $12.9 million.

The school board has scheduled a special meeting for June 26 to make the difficult choice of which of the funding requests it plans to put before the voters in November.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1