AgSTEM project expected to go to bid this week
WASHINGTON — The agriscience academy will most likely advance to the next phase of the project this week, pending state approval.
The long-discussed program is set to open next fall. It will focus on agriculture and STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and math. It is expected to include 35,750 square feet of new construction at Shepaug Valley School, while also using unused space within the school.
Project and Region 12 school officials were meeting with state Department of Administrative Services on Tuesday to go over the final checklist. Officials believed the state would give them the go-ahead to put the construction out to bid to build based on earlier conversations.
“This is really just making sure we’ve done everything that needs to be done and I think we’ve done that,” said Greg Cava, chairman for the Region 12 building committee.
The project could go out to bid this week, with responses expected back around the end of September. Those bids will then be brought to the committee for the Oct. 29 meeting with an expected construction start date in mid-November, said Lorel Purcell, of O & G Industries, the company serving as the construction manager.
Purcell expects 50 to 60 contractors to attend the prebid walk-through in mid-September.
“We don’t know what the bidding climate is like until we put our project out on the street,” she said. “Hopefully, we’ll get some good turnout.”
Purcell said it helps that the contractors’ busy season is winding down, which was a problem in the spring, when O&G bid for phase one — the demolition of the science wing and asbestos areas.
That phase wrapped up this summer with the fan remaining the major outstanding item. School officials shared concerns Monday that the temporary fan in place was not sustainable for the year of construction because it was too loud and didn’t have a damper, which allows fresh air to enter the building, but not the frigid temperatures in the winter.
Don O’Leary, Region 12 facilities manager, said they will have to retest the noise with the added sheetrock wall, adding they can spend five weeks without the damper, but a decision on how to handle that would need to be made at the next meeting when the architects and O&G representatives have more information.
Cava also questioned if fixing the fan was meant to be included in phase two and is now being pushed up to phase one or if it was poorly designed and is now an extra cost.
“We are desperately unhappy with how that turned out and desperately unhappy that the mechanical engineers ignored Mr. O’Leary’s protestations for months,” Cava said.
The project is expected to cost $29.9 million, with the state paying nearly $24 million. The state awarded an additional $1.5 million to the district in the spring to purchase furniture and fixtures for the project. The school is renovating the science labs, bringing the total cost to about $34.4 million.
Now that the physical work has started, the committee will receive monthly reports describing the work, costs and progress photos.
“It’s really a snapshot of the construction,” said Mark Jeffko, of O&G Industries.
Some of the project details include adding a greenhouse, an agricultural mechanics facility and animal facilities.
The program will serve 139 students from Region 12, Danbury, Brookfield, New Fairfield, New Milford, Newtown and Sherman. Bethel has not committed to joining the program.