Elementary School Design Concept 1

A conceptual design of the addition at Jefferson Elementary School, which will replace modular classrooms. The bond-funded work is to start this summer.

Provided graphic

JEFFERSON — Jefferson School District officials are moving forward this summer with construction on a new middle school, but it won't look like a dome.

Compass Project Solutions Inc., the owner's representative for the $14.4 million in bond projects the district plans, recommended the district not go with dome construction for its projects, saying indications are the district would end up paying more than planned and may struggle to find construction crews to do the work. 

"All four architects that we interviewed indicated that they didn't believe that the monolithic dome construction type would likely provide the most affordable construction type when compared to other conventional types of construction that also meet or exceed seismic and energy codes for school construction," Ricardo Becerril, president of Compass Project Solutions, wrote in his Nov. 29 analysis. 

"Multiple CM/GC (Construction Manager/General Contractor) contractors pulled out of submitting responses to our CM/GC RFP (Requests For Proposals) due to the possibility that we may opt to pursue dome construction," he continued. "Our selected CM/GC, Gerding Builders, indicated that they don't believe that dome construction will be the most economical in today's market conditions." 

Members of the district's bond oversight committee agreed with that stance and reported it to the Jefferson School Board on Dec. 11. (A Dec. 17 article in the Albany Democrat-Herald inaccurately stated the district was still moving forward with the dome plan.) 

Voters narrowly approved a $14.4 million measure in May to pass a bond measure that will build a new middle school on district property adjacent to Jefferson High School, and construct an eight-classroom addition and gym at Jefferson Elementary School. 

It will be a 30-year bond that will cost approximately $1.44 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Groundbreaking likely will take place this summer and completion is scheduled for September 2019.

The district received $4 million in matching funds from the state to add to the total, and sold the bonds at a premium, which means the available funding is just shy of $20 million, Superintendent Kent Klewitz said. 

The extra cash helps, but Klewitz said members of the bond oversight committee were concerned it wouldn't be enough to tempt local construction crews leery of taking on a design they've never done. Crews are in high demand statewide and not likely to go out of their way for an unsure project, Klewitz said.

The district also is under time pressure because it wants to do the elementary and middle school projects simultaneously, he said. "We had to make a very tough decision."

The district did explore dome construction as an option, and did believe it was a good choice from the standpoint of seismic stability and potentially lower construction costs. A political action committee in support of the bond touted the pod-shaped structures as the best solution, praising the idea in a Voters Pamphlet statement in favor of the measure.

However, in the end, domes weren't mentioned in the official ballot put before voters, and it was never anything more than an option, Klewitz said.

"From my perspective, always, what we were looking at was conceptual," he said. "Yes, this was touted as being an advantage, cost savings-wise. But wise decisions back away from that when cost-wise doesn't come out to be the best decision." 

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