Friday, March 10, 2023

Bids For New Oconee County Schools Instructional Support Center Come In Much Higher Than Earlier Estimates

***Bids For Elementary School Addition Under Estimate***

Oconee County Schools Superintendent Jason Branch recommended on Monday that the School Board accept a construction bid of $14.5 million the new Instructional Support Center in Watkinsville.

The recommended bid for the Instructional Support Center is $6.2 million more than the estimated cost of the facility in 2019 and $1.8 million more than the cost estimate given to the Board in January of 2022.

Branch also recommend to the Board that it accept a bid of $4.5 million for a 12-classroom addition at Malcom Bridge Elementary School.

The Malcom Bridge Elementary School bid is $1.4 million more than estimated in 2019 but $1.6 million less than was projected to the Board at its retreat in January of 2022.

Fred Ricketson, Director of Facilities for Oconee County Schools, presented summaries of the bids to the Board for the Instructional Support Center and the Malcom Bridge Elementary School additions as well as a bid of $72,621 for improvements to the Oconee County Middle School Basketball facility.

Board members questioned Ricketson about the completion dates for the three projects and the past experiences of the school system with the recommended bidders, but not about the cost.

Ryan White, Chief Technology Officer for Oconee County Schools, told the Board that Branch also was recommending approval of a bid of $148,649 for network components for the Instructional Support Center. The Board didn’t have any questions for White about the bid.

All four bids will be before the Board when it meets on Monday in its regular session when Branch will ask for votes on his recommendations that the four bids be approved.

ISR Bids

Oconee County Schools received only three bids for the two-story, 43,360 square foot Instructional Support Center it plans to build on North Main Street in downtown Watkinsville north of Bethel Baptist Church.

Screen Shot Ricketson Before Board 3/6/2023

The requests for proposals called for submission of bids by Feb. 28.

Kevin Price Construction, with offices on Daniells Bridge Road in Oconee County submitted the recommended bid of $14,543,708.

Bowen and Watson of Toccoa and R.W. Allen of Augusta submitted slightly lower bids ($14,483,000 and $14,370,291 respectively), but Ricketson said the evaluation was based on a number of factors, including cost.

The request for proposals for network components for the Instructional Support Center produced two responses, $148,649 by Cirrus Networks and $243,867 from Princeton IT Services.

Branch recommended the lower bid.

Malcom Bridge Schools

The request for proposals for the Malcom Bridge Elementary School addition called for plans for a 15,000 square foot, one story addition “consisting of a steel frame structure on concrete foundations that will be erected on the northwest side of the existing building.”

Bids also were due Feb. 28.

Branch is recommending low bidder Amacher Brothers Construction Company of Atlanta with a bid of $4,499,000.

Bowen and Watson Construction of Toccoa bid $5,671,750, and Cooper and Company General Contractors Inc. of Cumming bid $5,960.000.

The Request for proposals for the improvements to the Malcom Bridge Middle School gymnasium produced bids of $72,621 from Smith and Company Inc., of Monroe, $94,000 from Bowen and Watson, and $98,453 from Kevin Price.

Branch is recommending the low bid by Smith and Company of Monroe.

Board Response

Follow the presentations by Ricketson, Board Chair Kim Argo asked “when will the basketball goals be put up?”

Ricketson told her the work would be completed over the summer.

“Do we have a projected completion date for Malcolm Bridge Elementary and also the Instructional Support Center?” she asked.

“It is May 31 of 2024 for both of those projects,” Ricketson said.

Experience With Successful Bidders

Board Member Tim Burgess asked which projects Amacher Brothers and Kevin Price had completed for Oconee County Schools in the past.

Ricketson said that Amacher Brothers had built Dove Creek Elementary School, the classroom additions to Colham Ferry Elementary School, and the classroom additions to High Shoals Elementary School.

Kevin Price Construction last year did renovation work at Oconee County Primary and Oconee County Elementary schools, Ricketson said.

Kevin Price also did the Oconee High School renovation and addition and renovations at Malcom Bridge Elementary School, Malcom Bridge Middle School, and Oconee County Middle School, he added.

“So we’ve had experience with both of them with good results?” Burgess asked.

Ricketson responded in the affirmative.

Bowen and Watson Construction Company of Toccoa is building the new Dove Creek Middle School.

Earlier Cost Estimates

At the school retreat in January of 2020, Brock Toole, Chief Operations Officer for Oconee County Schools, provided the Board with a construction update with price estimates for future projects

These documents were not released to the public, and no outsider attended the retreat.

I obtained the documents via an open records request.

The estimated cost of the Instructional Support Center in 2019 was $8,307,250 and was $12,718,302 in January of 2022.

The estimated cost of the 12-classroom addition to Malcom Bridge Elementary School was $3,147,134 in 2019 and was $6,183,171 in 2022.

These projects also were presented to the Board at its retreat on Jan. 18 of this year, but no cost estimates for the projects were presented to the Board.

Other Components Of Meeting

At the beginning of the meeting on Monday, in his Superintendent’s Report, Branch told the Board that "Oconee County Schools was named the number one county school system in the state of Georgia by Niche.”

Bufford City Schools is rated the best school district in the state, with Oconee County ranked Number 2 and Forsyth County Schools ranked Number 3.

Oconee County Schools had been rated the top county school district in the state last year as well by Niche.

“So great work being recognized by ranking systems all over the country,” Branch said. “I wanted to make you aware of that.”

“We had 10 students from Oconee County and North Oconee High School recognized as National Merit Scholarship program finalists, which is very difficult to do so,” Branch said. “So outstanding students there.”

When Branch had finished, Board Chair Argo said to Branch: “I know you don't want to toot your own horn, but I understand you got a Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Georgia College of Education.”

Branch acknowledged the recognition.

Following an executive session, the Board approved moving six teachers from Malcom Bridge Middle School to the new Dove Creek Middle School effective July 26 of this year and another teacher from Oconee County Middle School to the new middle school.


The video below is on the YouTube channel of Oconee County Schools.

Branch made his report to the Board at 0:43 in the video.

White made his report at 8:05 in the video.

Ricketson made his report at 15:54 in the video.

Board Members from left to right in the video (and screen shot above) are Amy Parrish, Branch, Argo, Burgess, and Michael Ransom.

Board Member Ryan Hammock did not attend the March 6 meeting.

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