School Project Now Has $1.4 Million Surplus

Creative design changes on school projects save construction money

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After some creative adjustments to designs for improvement projects at two of its schools, Payson Unified School District now has a surplus of nearly $1.4 million in its bond construction budget.

The two companies managing the project, W.E. O'Neil and PinnacleOne, have been able to take a budget that was $3.8 million short and turn it around to a $1.4 million surplus, District Superintendent Casey O'Brien, said

Using value engineering, W.E O'Neil and PinnacleOne made substitutions in construction materials, primarily at Julia Randall Elementary School, which resulted in significant savings, O'Brien said.

"We've gone from a $3.8 million problem to having a surplus, and that's really good news," O'Brien said.

He said first estimates for any construction project are typically at the high end of the spectrum, and normally go down as value engineering is used to take advantage of areas of possible savings.

One of the areas of savings was in roofing materials for a new multipurpose building at Julia Randall Elementary School.

"We (school board and administrators) have made the decision to go with asphalt shingles at the school (Julia Randall Elementary), instead of metal roofing," O'Brien said.

He said the shingles that will be used are of a higher quality than even commercial grade, and representatives for W.E. O'Neil told the board the average lifespan of the asphalt shingles is about 40 years, as compared to an average 20-year lifespan for most other types. The move saved the district about $100,000.

O'Brien said representatives for W.E O'Neil told him wood trusses are "absolutely adequate" for the project's purposes.

One more area of savings in the multi-purpose building comes from substituting wood framing, instead of block construction for interior walls.

O'Brien said the substitutions to interior walls have garnered the district approximately $550,000 in savings.

The new multipurpose building will house a combination cafeteria and gymnasium.

The district had originally planned to build two separate new buildings for the cafeteria and gymnasium, and have saved the bond project about $550,000 by opting for the multipurpose building instead.

When completed, the multipurpose building will house the only full-size gymnasium at any of Payson's elementary schools, O'Brien said.

O'Brien said he is confident more savings will be found as the projects continue.

"We will continue to see savings as the close of the design phase draws near and we get a guaranteed maximum price from W.E. O'Neil," he said.

PUSD Business Manager Bobbette Sylvester said within the contractor's guaranteed maximum price (GMP) for the project is a contingency fund which, if not needed to cover unforeseen costs, would go back to the district for bond projects.

O'Brien said there is also a real possibility of the district qualifying for an additional $1 million in SFB (School Facilities Board) funding.

The SFB is a state entity that awards funds to qualifying schools in Arizona for construction and improvement projects based on need.

"Payson Unified School District does qualify for the funds, and PinnacleOne said they are really optimistic of getting the SFB money," O'Brien said.

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