State College Area school board approves construction bids for 3 schools

The State College Area school board on Wednesday approved construction bids for three elementary school renovation and construction projects.

On Monday, the board held a work session to review the bids and determine the lowest bid from 20 submissions. Lobar Inc., a construction company from Dillsburg with offices in State College, Emmaus and Cogan Station, was the lowest bidder and will be the general contractor for all three projects.

After months of discussion and planning, beginning in early 2016, the board voted last November to move forward with the plans to renovate Corl Street and Radio Park elementary schools and construct the new Spring Creek Elementary School on the Houserville Elementary property.

In September, the board approved the final design and cost estimate plans, provided by Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates, an architectural firm from Mechanicsburg, and on Nov. 2. opened the bids the district received.

All three projects are eligible for the state’s PlanCon school construction reimbursement program, which returns money to school districts based on the amount of educational square footage completed. The district estimates that each school is eligible for reimbursement of between $1.1 million and $1.5 million.

Based on the district’s reimbursement estimates the project totals will be: Corl Street, about $17.5 million; Spring Creek, about $17.6 million; and Radio Park, about $22 million.

The Radio Park bid approved on Wednesday provides four classrooms per grade and no children will be displaced during construction, as would’ve been the case in a three-classroom situation that the district had discussed earlier.

During the estimate process, the district considered installing rooftop solar arrays on each school, which would add about $500,000 to the total construction cost. Ed Poprik, director of Physical Plant, recommended that the board reject the solar plan because the combination of the district’s negotiated low electric rates and the energy efficiency of the new buildings would not allow the arrays to pay for themselves prior to their 30-year life expectancy.

Wednesday’s agenda included an item that, if passed, would reject the solar arrays, but that item was defeated 5-4. Immediately following that vote, board member Gretchen Brandt brought a motion to accept the solar array plan and the motion passed 5-4 with Brandt casting the deciding vote.

Phased construction on all three projects will start in December and the work is expected to be completed by the start of the 2019-20 school year, according to the district.