Gym Will Get Million-Dollar Roof, Paid For By The State

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The Payson School Board Thursday awarded a $969,000 contract to Amon Builders to replace the sagging roof on the old high school gym.

The contract will complete a $1.3 million series of projects to replace the flat, 43-year-old roof with a peaked, shingled roof that will match the rest of the campus architecture.

The appearance of cracks in the ceiling of the gym used for many sports events and physical education classes last year prompted the district to call in structural engineers, who concluded the original, Valley-based designers had blundered by not taking into account the sometimes considerable weight of snow. The engineers warned the district to evacuate the building anytime it snowed more than an inch.

Fortunately, the statewide School Facilities Board agreed to pay for the replacement of the roof, one of the few construction projects approved in the whole state for this year, said Superintendent Casey O’Brien.

Construction estimators initially put the cost of the project at $750,000. But actual costs nearly doubled by the conclusion of the project.

First, the School Facilities Board agreed to pay $160,000 to pull down and safely remove the asbestos-laden ceiling tiles. Commonly used in construction until the 1980s, the asbestos tiles pose no danger to building occupants unless they’re disturbed. But once disturbed, the dust-like particles can cause fatal lung damage when inhaled. Moreover, the early estimates proved much too low, largely as a result of the cost of getting the replacement roof beams and steel from the Valley up to Payson, said architect Bill Close.

“The estimates were seriously off,” conceded Close.

In part, that reflects the statewide increase in construction that has boosted the cost of most bids by 10 to 15 percent in the past few months, said Close.

“But the contractors are still hungry,” said Close. However, the mistakes in the estimates mostly reflected transportation costs for getting the materials to Payson the estimator failed to adequately consider, said Close.

As an aside, Close said he was trying to figure out whether the Payson sawmill operated by Kaibab Industries made the 90-foot-long, nine-ton laminated wood beams that carried the weight of the old roof. Otherwise, he said the 12-foot-wide, four-foot-high beams would have been a nightmare to haul up the old, narrow Beeline Highway. Despite the low original estimates, the School Facilities Board approved the increased costs as emergency repairs involving health and safety issues. O’Brien said the Legislature this year eliminated almost all the money for new school construction statewide and Payson’s project used a big chunk of the money available for emergency repairs statewide.

Several years ago, a state court ruled unconstitutional the huge budget differences between property tax-rich districts like Scottsdale and property tax-poor districts like Payson. As a result, the state took over responsibility for school funding and capital improvements. For the past several years, construction funds have been all but frozen as a result of the state’s budget crisis.

O’Brien said he was happy that a local contractor turned in the lowest of six bids. The second lowest bid came in just barely behind Amon, SD Crane — a Valley company. The high bid came in at $1.355 million.

O’Brien said the current schedule calls for the completing of the work by July, so the high school can start using the gym next fall.

“It’s been a challenge working out the scheduling,” said O’Brien, especially for physical education classes and things like volleyball matches and tournaments. “Everyone wants to use the district’s facilities — so it’s been a challenge to work everything in.”

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