School cost estimates more than expected. More work planned to bring them down

Design team, school building committee and school committee met Feb. 12

IPSWICH — Dueling estimates have pushed back the unveiling of the estimated cost for the new elementary school on the Doyon grounds.

It has also emerged that the estimates are higher than expected. How much higher, however, wasn’t disclosed at last night’s school building committee (SBC) meeting — and the architectural team wasn’t pressed on details.

The board has scheduled another meeting for next week to look at ways to bring the school’s cost back to the original estimate of around $67 million.

The SBC was scheduled to discuss the cost last night before voting on a schematic design due for submission to the state by February 21.

The reason for the delay was that the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) requires two cost estimates.

One is prepared by a team working for the architects, and the other is done by a group working for the owner’s project manager.

The estimates are prepared independently, then compared.

The MSBA allows a two-percent divergence between the estimates. But if the gap is wider, the teams have to reconcile the differences.

“We still have a bunch of numbers we need to further clarify,” Kevin Nigro, senior director at PMA Consultants, told the joint SBC and school committee meeting last night.

The estimates arrived on Friday, and the architects and project managers were unable to reconcile their figures by Monday night.

“Some of the detail is in narrative form, so maybe the two estimates aren’t seeing eye to eye,” Nigro said. He works for the school district’s owner’s project manager team.

“It’s worth noting this is typical,” said Dawn Guarriello, project architect with Perkins Eastman. Her group worked on the second estimate.

In addition to reconciling the numbers, the design team will have to explore “value management” to bring the project cost back down to around $67 million.

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SBC chairman Kevin Murphy said the two key areas to review are site costs above eight percent of the project total and construction costs over $333 a square foot.

Any overages would be paid entirely by the town, he noted.

“The MSBA process is funny,” Nigro said, then added, “It’s not funny, it’s unusual.”

The state wants a project cost at the schematic design phase, which is early in the project, he said.

In the private sector, estimates are made later — when designs are more certain, he explained.

However, the town has already agreed an educational program and building size with the state, so those will not be changed, the SBC was told.

After the proposal is submitted to the MSBA, it will have 30 days to respond before taking a vote on April 10.

Funding is scheduled to be discussed at town meeting on May 8.

Nigro said he expected the project team to be in touch with the state during that time to answer questions and get feedback.

The SBC decided to meet on Tuesday, February 20, to discuss costs and vote on submitting the project.

“Wednesday morning is our submission,” noted Superintendent Brian Blake.

“Wednesday afternoon.” replied architect Dan Colli.