Union School District -- stock

Union R-XI officials are reeling in some expectations after conservative estimates put the long-term upgrades and construction of a new elementary school over the $27 million bond amount approved in April.

Board members, administration officials and representatives from HTK Architects and Navigate, the district’s architectural firm designing the projects and its owner’s representatives, discussed possibilities that they expect will get the entire project back on budget.

Superintendent Dr. Steve Weinhold stressed the estimates were high for good reason. They include contingency and escalation fees that protect the district in the event bids are higher than they expect.

The new elementary school’s construction costs are currently estimated at roughly $17.5 million, with the total project possibly costing $22.2 million. Beaufort elementary’s total cost could be approximately $4.3 million, the middle school addition is estimated to cost $3.1 million and the maintenance building could cost $1.6 million.

However, Weinhold, Navigate and HTK all agreed the bids would most likely come in much lower than the estimates that were presented at the meeting. If that were to happen, many of the cuts wouldn’t need to be made, but on several a decision needed to be made right away for financial reasons.

Many of the proposed cutbacks went into the plans for the new elementary school. HTK President Mark Franzen said during the design process the building had grown substantially, and that scaling down expectations is a normal part of the process.

Cutbacks included exterior changes, like brick instead of stone on the outside of the school; lowering the height of the building and several other changes. Most notably, the roof of the building was debated.

In the cutbacks, HTK proposed a cheaper roof without gables. Instead of roofing to hide things like the air conditioning units and other mechanical items, a thin fence-like metal would hide them from view.

Board President Dr. Virgil Weideman said he didn’t like the way the school would look without the gabled roof. He said it was worth cutting elsewhere to make sure the building was something the community could be proud of.

“I want a building that will look good and that the community will be proud of for years and years to come,” Weideman said.

In the end, the roof was made into an “alternate” with another section of the building. In the case that bids do in fact come in high, and there was a need to eliminate some spending, the board could decide between activity rooms and the type of roof.

Weinhold said he’s confident the project will come in on budget. He said it is unlikely the estimate will prove to be the real cost of the major project.

Franzen agreed with Weinhold. He stressed again that slimming is part of the process.

“We are now working to get you down to where you want to be. We’re trying to solve this without cutting important space,” Franzen said. “We’re not there yet, but we’re working on it.”

The new elementary school and other district-wide projects are being funded by Prop Wildcats, a $27 million no-tax bond increase. It will be located on district-owned land just off Highway 50, between Progress Parkway and Prairie Dell Road.