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The first phase of reconstruction for West Albany High School will cost more than anticipated, but for now, Albany School Board members will leave it that way.

Board members heard a report Monday from David McKay of HMK Co., program manager for the project, on design development for the 108,000 square feet of new construction at West and possibilities to reduce what is currently an $8.6 million shortfall.

Board members voted unanimously, with Chairwoman Jennifer Ward on speaker phone, to approve the design development presentation with no alternates or additional changes in scope other than those already made to get to the $8.6 million. They'll wait on more changes to see how other bond projects come in.

Business Director Russ Allen said the initial budget for the high school reconstruction project was about $42 million, but ballooned to about $62 million before value engineering cut that extra $20 million to $8.6 million.

He said the project is over budget for various reasons, mostly because the district is now working with real designs for what had just been concepts. 

Some of those concepts also changed, Allen said. For instance, the district had looked at boosting the size of the planned commons area from about 12,000 square feet to about 16,000 square feet.

Also, a band room is part of the plan, but storage for band instruments initially wasn't. Adding that later pushed up the pricetag.

The district already has agreed to cut back about 5,000 square feet of commons space, eliminate a couple of business classrooms, take out one music practice room, change the connection from the new building to the old building to a covered canopy instead of a full enclosure, and eliminate more than $2 million in renovations to the existing building. Those changes will stay, Allen said.

McKay's presentation listed a number of other options to consider, such as eliminating the planned auxiliary gym, taking out the commons balcony and changing the planned full kitchen to a simple warming kitchen. Savings could total $5.2 to $5.7 million under that plan.

That work could be done as bid alternates, McKay said, although he warned contractors are much less likely to want to work with a district that offers these when they already have so many full-scale projects on their plates.

But board members said they felt they could take only so much from the design before the new construction becomes inefficient and no longer matches what voters authorized.

"There was a vision that we had of doing it the right way," said Micah Smith. 

Besides reducing the scope of the work, options for reducing the shortfall include using construction excise tax dollars, using more bond interest money, tapping Measure 98 vocational education funds and selling remaining general obligation bonds.

In May 2017, voters approved the first phase of a full-scale rebuild at West Albany High School as part of a $159 million bond measure. Completion of the rebuild, which will take at least a second phase and possibly more, is being left to future bond measures.

Crews will break ground in 2019 and the first phase is scheduled to be finished in fall 2020.

The rest of the $159 million is covering variety of construction and renovation projects. The largest include building the new Meadow Ridge Elementary School and reconstructing Oak Elementary School in its entirety.

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