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Recap from 3/25 Virtual SBC Meeting

On Wednesday the SBC met via Zoom. The meeting was broadcast live (as usual) on Comcast channel 8 and Verizon channel 33, and the video of the meeting can be seen here: https://lincolntv.viebit.com/?folder=ALL

The main purpose of the meeting was to review and approve the guaranteed maximum price (GMP) for the project. There are several components to the GMP, including (slide deck is available here):

  • Construction Cost: $78,324,908
  • List of Allowances: $1,489,700 (work that is anticipated but not yet fully designed or scope that is not yet defined until the project begins)
  • Assumptions and Qualification: Clarifications made by the Construction Manager to demonstrate understanding of the scope of work and to supplement the information contained in the design documents.
  • Project Schedule: Anticipated start and completion dates, including important milestones:
    • Modular classrooms: Complete
    • Phase 1: Start, June 22, 2020; Substantial Completion, June 22, 2021
    • Phase 2: Start, July 8, 2021; Substantial Completion, July 8, 2022

The SBC voted to approve the GMP subject to final review of the contract by Town Counsel.

Community Forum March 18th – Special Town Meeting March 28th

SAVE THE DATES:

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 18, 7:30PM:  COMMUNITY FORUM, Hartwell Multipurpose Room

SATURDAY, MARCH 28, 9:30AM:  SPECIAL TOWN MEETING, Donaldson Auditorium

In the wake of the February 12 meeting when the SBC had to cut $3.5M of scope out of the project to keep it on time and on budget, the SBC voted to pursue funding for the restoration of key project elements totaling about $2M.  

This vote launched a round of communication with the School Committee, Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee to request, and plan, for a Special Town Meeting to be held on the same day as the Annual Town Meeting (March 28).  

When is the Special Town Meeting?

The same day as the Annual Town Meeting:  Saturday, March 28, 2020 at 9:30am.

Why is the Special Town Meeting on the same day as the Annual Town Meeting?

The warrant closed on January 26, and the only way to consider a new item is to call a Special Town Meeting.  On February 24, at the request of the School Committee, the Board of Selectmen voted to call a Special Town Meeting for the purpose of considering additional capital requests for the Lincoln School building project. The Annual Town Meeting will begin as soon as the Special Town Meeting has ended.

What is being decided at the Special Town Meeting?

Residents will consider approving items that the SBC has prioritized.  About $2M in additional funds is required to reinstate all the prioritized features of the school project that had to be eliminated to close the gap between the final estimates and the actual construction bids. The SBC is exploring options that use existing Free Cash and/or Stabilization funds.

What are we voting on?

  1. About $2M of priority items (see below) related to the educational program, quality of the interior and exterior environment, community use of the building and the campus, and the long-term value of our investment. The SBC and the Finance Committee are discussing whether this request will come forward as one or more motions.  The SBC will be meeting on March 17th and will update the community as soon as information is finalized.
  2. Funds from the Cable Revolving Fund to be used for technology upgrades in the Auditorium (note: This is not a new request.  Originally this was on the Annual Town Meeting warrant.  It has been moved to the STM to keep all project-related items together.)

Why is the Special Town Meeting Important?

These are high-priority items that had to be cut from the project to stay on time and on budget.  If the community wants them to be added back into the project, residents must vote to fund them at the Special Town Meeting.  Our contractor, Consigli, needs to know exactly which items are part of the project in order to execute final contracts. 

To learn more about what’s on the list and why the bids came in over budget, read more at https://lincolnsbc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/VE-List-Final-Approved-Website-VERSION_2020-0226.pdf and https://lincolnsbc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Special-Town-Meeting-FAQs-final-for-mailing.pdf

Special Town Meeting – March 28th

In the wake of the February 12 meeting when the SBC had to cut $3.5M of scope out of the project to keep it on time and on budget, the SBC met this past Monday morning to discuss options.  At that meeting, the SBC voted to pursue funding for the restoration of key project elements.  

This vote launched a round of communication with the School Committee, Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee to request, and plan, for a Special Town Meeting to be held on the same day as the Annual Town Meeting (March 28).  Following is a set of FAQs that provide an overview of where we are and how we got here.  In addition, please mark your calendars for a Community Forum on Wednesday, March 18, 7:30pm, Hartwell Multipurpose Room.

Lincoln School ProjectSpecial Town Meeting, March 28, 2020FAQs

The Lincoln School project will transform our educational and community spaces.  The project is the first net zero school renovation of its kind in the state.  And the recent need to remove $3.5M from the scope of the project does not change what it will achieve.  Throughout the design process, the School Building Committee (SBC) has used the community’s five core project goals to stay focused on what is important and to guide us through difficult decisions. Those goals are: 

  1. support innovative education
  2. prioritize the environment and sustainability
  3. enhance the use of the school as a community resource
  4. respect the feel and history of the campus
  5. make decisions that have long-term value

All along, as we went through the value engineering (VE) process, the SBC achieved necessary reductions in the project without impinging on those core values. But the need to reduce the construction budget by $3.5M as a result of the construction bid process has impacted aspects of the project that the SBC has worked hard to protect.  

We did not believe that we would ever be in a position to have to compromise core values to keep the project within budget. The SBC promised a fully renovated, educationally transformative net zero school for $93.9M, which we have achieved.  In this last round of value engineering, the SBC had to reduce or eliminate some items that we know are important to many members of the community, such as: Bike paths/walkways; playground equipment; outdoor learning and community spaces; optimization of natural daylight (reduced interior glass and the exterior sun controls for classrooms); tree replacement; new furniture and technology infrastructure that supports our building’s innovative learning environment.

The timing of the bid process did not afford sufficient time to fully consider the implications on the project within our annual budget and planning cycle leading up to Town Meeting. The Special Town Meeting is the community’s opportunity to decide whether some or all elements will be restored.

When is the Special Town Meeting?

The same day as the Annual Town Meeting:  Saturday, March 28, 2020 at 9:30am.

Why is the Special Town Meeting on the same day as the Annual Town Meeting?

The warrant closed on January 26, and the only way to consider a new item is to call a Special Town Meeting.  On February 24, at the request of the School Committee, the Board of Selectmen voted to call a Special Town Meeting for the purpose of considering additional capital requests for the Lincoln School building project.

What is being decided at the Special Town Meeting?

Residents will consider approving items that the SBC has prioritized.  About $2M in additional funds is required to reinstate key features of the school project that had to be eliminated to close the gap between the final estimates and the actual construction bids. The SBC is exploring options that use existing Free Cash and/or Stabilization funds.

Why did the bids come in over budget?

  • Escalation: re-bid cost estimates included an “escalation contingency” of about 6%. According to our project team, the annualized industry escalation rate in January and February has been closer to 8%. Complexity:  Our project is a complex renovation that will create cohesion in a building complex that was built in 11 phases over almost 50 years. When we set the budget in June 2018, the design and drawings were 20% complete.  As we progressed through Schematic Design, Design Development, and Construction Documents stages, we learned more about existing conditions and about the work needed to achieve our community’s goals.  We received three independent cost estimates at the end of each phase:
    • Before the bond vote in December 2018, the SBC reduced the scope of the project by about $10M.  As the project went on, we had three more rounds of cost estimates and two more rounds of value engineering, which further reduced the scope of the project by about $4M.  The last VE exercise before the project went out to bid in December cut $1.5M to keep the project on budget. As we went through those exercises, the SBC felt confident about how the building would look and perform for the next 30-plus years. Unlike the VE reductions in other phases, the size of this most recent estimate and budget gap left the SBC with little discretion about what to remove. We were forced to make cuts that impact our project values.
    • There are many new construction projects out there (schools, commercial buildings, and housing) which are more predictable and straightforward.  Contractors have their choice of work, and new construction is more attractive.
  • Lower Bid Response:  This renovation complexity contributed to a lower-than-hoped-for bid response.  While the SBC pre-approved 109 sub-trade contractors, just over half chose to submit bids.
    • Didn’t we know all of that before we went out to bid? We built in contingency and escalation factors that were slightly higher than industry norms, but as our construction manager Consigli noted, you don’t really know what the cost will be until “the market speaks to you.” The cost and complexity of renovating an existing building to meet our education and net zero goals, while competing with new construction projects in nearby towns, has proven to be more expensive than expected.

What about going forward? What are the cost controls?

  • Guaranteed Maximum Price:  After March 28, when we have the final word from the community about what will be included in the project, the guaranteed maximum price (GMP) will be set.  This price covers all the work that is in the bid documents and there is shared responsibility between the contractor (Consigli) and the owner (Town of Lincoln) to meet that price.
  • Contingencies: A construction contingency of 2.5% is carried by Consigli and 5% is carried by the Town.  These contingencies are meant to conservatively account for the kinds of routine events that can occur in a project (for example, if drawings need slight modification to respond to an existing condition, or if additional work is needed to implement the modification).  
  • What is or is not covered, and who is responsible? (some examples)
    • If a subcontractor makes a mistake, the cost of fixing the mistake is borne by Consigli (for example, the workmanship is not of the quality specified, or if materials are damaged).
    • If the Town wants changes to the project after the GMP is set, it comes out of our contingency (for example, if we choose a different material for the floors, or if we require additional outlets in a classroom).
    • If there is a high-impact unforeseen situation that is outside the realm of the contingency (for example, if as we excavate, we discover dinosaur bones, uranium, or oil), then we either need to value engineer more items out of the project to stay on budget or explore our options with the Town.
  • Are we confident that there is enough contingency built into the project? Yes. The SBC has asked this question many times and in as many ways it can think of, and the project team says that we have built in enough contingency.

What is on the warrant?

  • About $2M of priority items related to the educational program, quality of the interior and exterior environment, community use of the building and the campus, and the long-term value of our investment. The SBC and the Finance Committee are discussing whether this request will come forward as one or more motions.  The SBC will update the community as soon as that information is finalized.
  • Funds from the Cable Revolving Fund to be used for technology upgrades in the Auditorium (note: This is not a new request.  Originally this was on the Annual Town Meeting warrant.  It has been moved to the STM to keep all project-related items together.)

2 SBC Meetings This Week

Monday, February 24, 7:30am, Hartwell Multipurpose Room

The SBC will be meeting Monday morning from 7:30am – 8:00am in the Hartwell Multipurpose Room. In preparation for upcoming meetings with the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee, the SBC will review the $3.5M list of items that had to be cut in order to keep the project on budget, begin prioritizing the list, and discuss possible funding mechanisms.

Wed., February 26, 7:00pm, Hartwell Multipurpose Room

The SBC will hold its regular meeting and continue the above conversation.

We Choose…(the Sequel)

“We choose to go to the Moon! …We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win …”

President John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962

“As a Town, we always knew that developing a Lincoln School project would be complicated and require a careful cost/benefit analysis of criteria and options.“ — SBC blog post, December 2017

There’s no sugar-coating this: Last night’s School Building Committee (SBC) meeting was rough. Most of the construction bids are in and we had to vote to remove $3.5M from the project in order to keep us on time and on budget — REALLY?!?! So how did we get here, what did we have to cut, and what comes next?

Over two years ago, we got our first cost estimates for a set of project concepts based on our educational and sustainability ideals — they were much higher than we had hoped and the long, hard work of shaping and approving our school project began. Since June 2018, when we approved concept “L3” with a budget of $93.9M, we have had 4 sets of cost estimates and 3 rounds of value engineering. When making these painful decisions, we’ve relied on our community’s 5 core project values to guide our decisions about what we could cut. When we eliminated a final $1.1M at the end of November, we believed we had done everything we needed to do to get favorable bids from all the subcontractors involved in the project. The marketplace just told us otherwise.

Why are the bids high when we just did Value Engineering 2 months ago?

  • Our Construction Manager, Consigli, reminded us that this is a complicated renovation project which is harder to execute than new construction.
  • There are many new construction projects in the marketplace — other schools, housing, commercial, etc. — these projects are easier to estimate because there are fewer unknowns and there is less risk assumed by the contractors. As a result, in a white-hot construction market, contractors are more interested in these “clean” projects.
  • Annual escalation rates jumped from 5-6% in 2019 to 8% in the last two months.
  • There was a lower-than-expected response from our pre-qualified bidders. Only about half of the subcontractors ended up submitting a bid.
  • “Trade” contractors (e.g. roofing, plumbing, mechanical and electrical systems) had a hard bid deadline of January 29th. Trade bids are regulated by state laws that fix the scope of the work and preclude us from negotiating.
  • “Non-trade” contractors (e.g. steel, drywall, landscaping) are still able to submit bids for another couple of weeks. Consigli manages these bids.
  • We are committed to a project that is on time and on budget. The Committee made the hard decisions we needed to last night to cut what was necessary in order to close the gap, stay on budget, and keep us on schedule.

What did we have to cut? Unlike our other Value Engineering exercises, the size of the bid gap left the SBC with little discretion about what to remove. We had to make cuts in items that impact our project values such as: auditorium renovations/theatrical rigging; design features that admit and control natural light; a 3/4 reduction in the furniture, fixtures, equipment, technology budget; elimination of walkway and bike paths, courtyards; a 50% reduction of playground equipment, and; planting new trees.

The good news is that we protected key educational elements and the building remains net zero.

Next Steps:

  • Consigli will provide a breakdown of construction timing for each item that was value engineered/eliminated to help the SBC understand which decisions can/cannot be reconsidered if there are savings in other areas.
  • After school vacation week, the SBC will meet with the Finance Committee to see if there are any funding options, with minimal or no impact on the town budget, for funding core elements that affect long-term value and cannot be added after the project is complete. Any such funding decisions would require a Town Meeting vote.
  • Since the warrant for the Annual Town Meeting has closed, a Special Town Meeting (within the Annual Town Meeting) would need to be called for any project-related appropriations. The SBC voted to ask the School Committee to ask the Board of Selectmen to consider authorizing a STM if such a meeting is requested.
  • Upcoming meetings:
    • February 24th — School Committee Meeting, 8:00am; Board of Selectmen Meeting 6:30pm
    • February 25th — Finance Committee Meeting, 6:30pm
    • February 26th — School Building Committee Meeting, 7:00pm
    • February 27th — School Committee Meeting, 7:00pm

Wednesday SBC Meeting – Construction Bids

SBC Meeting – Wednesday, February 5th, 7:00pm, Hartwell Multipurpose Room

Included on the Agenda:

  • Review Status of Trade/Non-Trade Construction Bids
  • Construction Update
  • Owner’s Project Manager Update

MEETING DATE CORRECTION: The next SBC meeting will be on February 26th (not the 19th). For a list of upcoming meetings, click here.

Circle the date…

…January 29th is a milestone day for the project! It is the day the trade bids will be opened, a key step in finalizing the “guaranteed maximum price” (GMP). Below is an overview of the project schedule.

At the February 5th SBC meeting, the project team will seek approval to award some or all of the trade contracts, which will allow the trade contractors to work on shop drawings, coordinate with Consigli, etc.


Project Progress

  • The temporary school now has electricity and safety testing has been completed.
  • The temporary school will be substantially complete by the end of January.
  • Paving of the temporary parking lot will be done in the spring.
  • The construction fencing around the temporary school will remain in place until the spring.

Next SBC Meetings

  • Wednesday, February 5th, 7:00pm, Hartwell Multipurpose Room
  • Wednesday, February 26th, 7:00pm, Hartwell Multipurpose Room
  • Note: The next SBC blog post will come out on February 2nd.

Reminder…the 4th of July fireworks display is cancelled for the next several years as the building project is completed and the playing fields restored. All the other fabulous July 4th activities will still take place!

Budget Update

We are pleased to report that we’ve completed value engineering (VE) for the “90% Construction Document” phase. Our school building project remains on time and within budget. The next steps (proceeding through December) include finalizing plans and the 100% Construction Document drawings (Bid Documents) in preparation for soliciting sub-trade bids.  

Just as we did at the end of the “60% Construction Document” phase in September, the SBC made a number of difficult but necessary tradeoffs to keep the project on budget and to ensure we are getting the best value for our money. As they have been at each phase, decisions were guided by our project values: transform the educational environment, make the building net zero, recognize the school as a community asset, ensure that decisions are based on long-term value.

Our project is very complex and these cost deliberations are not always easy or straightforward.  For example, originally the project specified permeable pavement for the access road behind the school because the access road is in the wetland buffer zone and permeable pavement would allow water to percolate back into the soil.  However, after discussions with our Conservation Commission and the City of Cambridge (we are in the watershed for Cambridge’s supply, so it is within their purview to review site plans that impact the watershed), it was agreed that more conventional pavement is preferable in case of a spilled contaminant. Not only was this change better for protecting the wetlands and watershed, it, along with some other site work refinements, saved $167K in the construction budget.

Other VE decisions included:

  • Changing the size of ceiling panels in the Dining Commons from 2’ x 8’ to 2’ x 2’ ($41K)
  • Simplifying the roof blocking plan for all sloped roof eaves ($69K)
  • Changing the type of coat cubby that will be installed for grades K-2 (out of a total of $141K, took an $81K reduction from construction budget, kept $30K for installation, and put $30K into the furniture/fixtures budget)
  • Reducing the scope of kitchen equipment that needs to have an exhaust system ($8.5K)

In addition, several items were put on an “add-alternate” list. These are items that will be added back into the project if bids are favorable and/or there are contingency dollars left at the end of the project:

  • New divider for the Auditorium (separates the Lecture Hall from the rest of the Auditorium)
  • Roof screens to hide HVAC mechanical equipment.
  • 1/2 basketball court outside Reed Gym

From Superintendent Becky McFall

PROJECT UPDATE: Temporary Parking Lot Paving

Aggregate Industries was recently on site to review the porous paving operation for the temporary parking lot and sidewalks around the modular building. What to expect during the paving:

  • 2-3 trucks/per hour with an expected total of 15-20 trucks a day
    • Delivery of asphalt during the hours of school drop off and pick up is prohibited
    • Trucks will be timed so they are not staged on Ballfield Road.
  • Consigli Construction will be utilizing 4 parking spots in front of the Smith entrance alongside the field for the asphalt truck while they are paving the sidewalk along the West portion of the site. Barrels and signage will be installed for clear notification of which spots will be utilized. 
  • If you are travelling to or from the Ballfield Road campus while school is in session, you should expect the possibility of delays due to increased truck traffic.

Preschool Students At Work! (reprinted with permission from the October 23rd Superintendent’s Bulletin)

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