Thursday, March 4, 2010

Good News on Construction Bidding Climate

The PG's Mary Niederberger wrote a fascinating article which appears on the front page of today's South section entitled "School Districts Start New Construction". And the news is...GOOD! Construction bids are way down throughout our region! A slow economy has a silver lining after all! As my husband always says - "Buy low!" Well, right now, we can! The time to get bids on the high school project is NOW while the competition is still fierce - I have no doubt that this renovation project is coveted by lots and lots of bidders - and their ticket to having their bid accepted? ...being sure they are the low bidder, of course. That's Business 101, right?...But don't just listen to what I have to say about it....Here's a quote from her article that outlines the realities of the current climate in our area:

"While most school construction projects involve some level of tax hike to finance them, there is good news for residents in districts preparing to go out to bid and some who have recently accepted bids.
Because of the slow economy and dearth of other major construction projects in the region, more contractors are scrambling to bid on school projects, with the competition bringing prices down.
In recent months the Bethel Park, Derry Area, Upper St. Clair and West Mifflin Area school districts have accepted bids on major construction projects that were 17 to 20 percent lower than their projected costs as a result of the competition.
"A few years ago on projects where you would see maybe five or six bidders, you are now seeing 10 or more," said John Taormina, manager of the school construction project management Division of P.J. Dick Inc.
"Competition is stronger so people are willing to make bigger cuts and better deals than two years ago when maybe the plate was a little more full."


The entire article can be found here: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10063/1039898-55.stm#ixzz0hDqBswAR

It is immensely helpful to have cold, hard facts about what has actually been happening with similar projects in the region in order to have a better understanding of what we can likely expect from our own. Clearly, the time to act is now. If bids are currently coming in 17-20% lower than projected costs, why would we wait? If you do the math, if our $113 M cap gets bids that are 20% less, that would bring our ACTUAL cost down to about $90 M. That's GREAT news for all of us! Let's take advantage of this golden opportunity and help not only ourselves but the future generations of this town. Onward!

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10063/1039898-55.stm

49 comments:

  1. This would be great news, except that the project already depends on these reduced construction costs. Every time they've been asked about it, PJ Dick who is preparing the estimates has stated that they are basing their estimates on the current market conditions. On the projects I've been working on, prices have been depressed by 15-20% since late 2008. The projects with the bids coming in significantly lower that the estimates were all bid around the same time as the pricing was dropping rapidly.

    In other words, the 17-20% lower costs are already baked into the current estimated project cost of $113 million.

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  2. There are some other cold, hard facts the article includes - only one school district is working on a project of the same or greater cost than Mt. Lebanon - Penn Hills with a $130 million project. Interesting, since they have only a slightly larger student population.

    Digging a little deeper, it appears that they are getting a lot more for the money. According to this article:

    http://www.yourpennhills.com/news/article/penn-hills-school-board-studies-architects-building-plans

    The $130 million would actually be for three major projects:

    -Converting a middle school to an elementary school and administrative center for $25 million.

    -Building an all or nearly all new high school for $71.8 million

    -Converting the current high school into a middle school for $39.8 million.

    It really seems like everyone except Mt. Lebanon is paying $70-80 million for a new high school building these days. Is ours really going to be that much better?

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  3. Chris, thanks for your comments. I'll beg to differ with your assessment, however, on the current bidding climate. I have talked to people across industries and uniformly, they are bidding for business with their margins shaved to next to zero (some even looking to get business if it means at a loss right now) so that they can stay visible and in order to keep their people employed. I don't think we will really know what the bids on this project will come in at until we actually put it out to bid, and every indication is that sooner than later will yield a more positive outcome.

    As well, not everyone is paying $70-80 million for a new high school these days -- the project in Bethel Park right next door is $88 million and we cannot make an apples-to-apples comparison with our own project as there are many differences between the two.

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  4. Elaine:
    I don't know whom you're talking to, but I'd suggest this article from RSMeans, industry leader on consrtuction cost!
    http://www.reedconstructiondata.com/news/2010/02/construction-materials-price-index-rises-in-january/
    Also, I'm told Montour's project came in way over estimates.
    Dean Spahr

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  5. Elaine,

    Our district’s hired construction experts say that they have already accounted for the current favorable bidding climate in their cost estimates. What reason do you have to believe that they are mistaken? Do you have reason to believe that the people you “have talked to across industries” know more about our project and its likely costs than the construction-cost experts we hired specifically to estimate our project?

    Cheers,
    Tom

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  6. Tom, thanks for your comments. Our construction manager, P.J. Dick, prepared their current cost estimates several months ago as mandated by the Act 34 process and they are unable to revise it, per state guidelines, to take into account current market conditions. Effectively, they had to provide a snapshot in time that averaged projects in other districts that received bids many months ago. If you look at recent projects that have received bids since we got the numbers from our construction manager, they are indeed lower. It's also important to note that on items related to the high school renovation in which our district has recently received bids, specifically the LEED services and asbestos abatement, we have in fact received bids that were lower than expected.

    When we look at the overall cost of our project vs. neighboring districts, it's important to keep in mind that our project includes the costs associated with an Administration Building, a pool, two theatres, etc. It's very hard to make apples-to-apples comparisons on total project costs vs. other districts.

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  7. Elaine,

    As an architect, I've been paying attention to construction costs over the last couple of years. Costs dropped 15-20% pretty much across the board in late 2008 and have not recovered since. In other words, costs have been this low for well over a year now and have been incorporated into most cost estimates since around the fall of 2009 (about the same time our high school project went from $138 million to $113 million without getting any smaller).

    There is no difference in the bidding climate from now to couple of months ago when PJ Dick put the final, $113 million cost estimate together.

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  8. Thanks for your posts. I don't think anyone can predict exactly what the winning bid will be, and perhaps that is what is so terrifying for some people. However, at the same time, I think that it is hard to dispute that the current competitive market is absolutely in our favor - even if some portion of economic savings are possibly already being taken into account. In addition, the fact that we are more likely to get a larger number of bids will certainly help to drive numbers down. It's common sense. If someone, or, more likely, several bidders want the gig, they will throw in lower bids to ensure that.

    I'm not familiar to Montour's situation at all. But be careful...hearsay can be misleading...for example, someone has been throwing around numbers about other schools' project costs, stating that Bethel's is $71 M.
    The fact is that is is $88 M...a bit different. Throwing out inflated or deflated numbers is unfair and certainly misleading. Sort of like a 50% tax increase...that's just not right.

    One final comment - to all of those people out there who want a $75M cap...exactly whom would decide what to ax from the current project to get down to that #??? The fact is, every brick and detail of the current project was put there for a reason - based on countless hours of study and conferencing with key people. Don't think we need an 8-lane pool? - ask the swimmers or coaches - I guarantee they will disagree. Don't think we need tennis courts ?- ask the tennis people - I guarantee they will disagree. Don't think we need as much arts space ?- ask the arts people, and the list goes on. Anyone who has the guts to think that they have all the "right" answers about what the school "really" needs should take a reality check. This plan was developed over years of detailed study. To overlook that and belittle it is downright wrong.

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  9. Thanks for your post Chris - if you would list your last name next time it would be most appreciated. I checked out your profile. It's always great to get an architect's perspective - although I think it is still anyone's guess as to what the final number will be. I'm glad to see that you are a proponent of LEED certification - I'm sure many think that the cost of such an untertaking "isn't worth it". I disagree with them.

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  10. Kristen:
    I thought we already had some pretty decent tennis courts.
    What are those green, fenced in areas just above the stadium?
    Dean Spahr

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  11. Kristen,

    Nobody is overlooking or belittling the time and effort invested in the current plan. Rather, we are merely observing that that time and effort, as guided by a planning process that lacked adequate cost controls, has resulted in a plan that is so expensive that it beggars belief. We are compelled to question whether the extraordinary expense of the current plan is rational in light of (1) what is known about how school facilities affect student outcomes (not much) and (2) the financial positions of our school district, community, commonwealth, and nation. Simply put, in a time when we are already struggling to pay for past spending at all levels of government, is it wise to increase this burden by spending excessively?

    Cheers,
    Tom

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  12. Tom - your comments are certainly relevant to your own beliefs, but they are not to mine. You have every right to feel the way you do, of course. However, I disagree with you about the importance of decent facilities. Period. Others do too. Please don't try to throw your stats at me again. I will not jump on that hamster wheel again. I am entitled to my own beliefs. Ditto on the economy at large. I also hold the belief that the longer everyone keeps from spending, the longer we will be in economic crisis. Buy low and get great deals while stimulating the economy. Everyone wins! The economy can't improve if no one spends. It's all about the big picture to me. I'm sure you disagree - fine with me.

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  13. Dean - you misunderstand me - my concern about tennis courts is little to none. I am not a sports person myself. The difference between you and me is that I choose not to assume that the tennis courts are "just fine" based on little to nothing. I have absolutely no knowledge of the condition of the tennis courts. Because of that, I don't weigh in (as you have). I prefer to leave it up the the people like the tennis coaches to make more informed decisions than I ever could about something I know nothing about.

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  14. Kristen,

    While we are each entitled to entertain the beliefs of our choosing, for those beliefs to be rational, they must be supported by evidence. You can believe that the moon is made of cheese, but that doesn’t make it so. Nevertheless, you are entitled to believe it. As you have often said, it’s a free country,

    The problem arises when you act upon your beliefs in a way that influences public policy. Now your beliefs, if they are irrational, can harm other people. Now if you ignore credible evidence that your beliefs are mistaken, you do so at the expense of others.

    That is why, in matters of public policy, we have an obligation to consider evidence that challenges our beliefs. That is why we must be willing to offer evidence to support our claims. If we do not hold ourselves to this standard, that of testing our beliefs with evidence, we free our ignorance to become something that can harm other people.

    Cheers,
    Tom

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  15. Kristen:
    How do you arive at your assumptions?
    1. How do you know that I have no knowledge of the tennis courts?
    2. If the tennis courts are of no concern and you have no knoweldge why bring them up?
    3. You proclaim Good News, we're going to experience lower construction cost because you read an article in the PG.
    The industry source for such info. writes otherwise, a couple of people tell you the savings have already been factored in. Supported by the way by the CM at board meetings and there's not a hint that maybe we should take a closer look.
    Dean Spahr

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  16. Kristen writes: "I also hold the belief that the longer everyone keeps from spending, the longer we will be in economic crisis."
    Kristen, let me recommend a book to you. "Don't Buy Stuff You Cannnot Afford." It is only one page long. See Blog Lebo.
    Elaine Gillen

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  17. Tom,

    You suggest that my opinions might harm others through public policy - I say the same about your beliefs. I strongly believe that if this project does not move forward great harm can be done to not only the children, but to the credibility of our town's reputation for excellent schools. I have trust in the process that has taken place thus far.

    Dean,
    I'm a pretty intelligent gal, but I'm having trouble following your logic. All the power to you if you have intimate knowledge of the tennis courts - however, if you truly did, you would know that part of the tennis courts issue is that they need to be moved in order to accomodate the new building configuration. I merely brought them up as one of many examples to point out that there are many stakeholders here who have strong feelings about every aspect of the new design.

    Dean, with all due respect, we've been taking a closer look for two years....time to move.

    I'm off to volunteer at my son's school book fair...gotta run for now.

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  18. Thanks for the chuckle Elaine G. I could recommend a few books to you that support my idea - but they are a bit longer than a page. Let me know if you are interested and I will send them along.

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  19. To Kristen’s post above: I'm not familiar to Montour's situation at all. But be careful...hearsay can be misleading...for example, someone has been throwing around numbers about other schools' project costs, stating that Bethel's is $71 M.

    You may be interested in this:

    “In January, an Act 34 information package estimated construction bids in the neighborhood of $85 million. Bids were opened Aug. 4, when base bids totaled $70,594,955. School district directors had removed several alternate items -- including the addition of two tennis courts and lighting for that particular athletic venue and a television studio -- when it put the project out to bid. They were able to restore some of the items when the returned bids were lower than expected.”

    Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09233/992379-100.stm#ixzz0hFdLREhd

    Unless the Post-Gazette is an unreliable source of information…hmmm.

    -Charlotte Stephenson

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  20. I'm sorry that you can't follow my logic, I'll try one more time.
    You say if I truly had knowledge of the the courts, I'd know that the issue with them is they need to be moved to accomodate the new building configuration. See you assume-- that I don't know that!
    Yeah I do... and I also know that the last thing you want near a court is a 10' concrete wall! The CAC presentation discusses that issue.
    And that brings us to your original post.
    GOOD NEWS we going to see 20% savings-- and the buildings coming in at $90MM!
    Experts suggest otherwise its been discussed in numerous board meetings that we're already using the latest costing figures.
    Wouldn't it be intelligent to verify which source is correct?
    You think its time to move... others don't!
    Thanks for your time and volunteering.
    Dean Spahr

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  21. Tom, Dean, Elaine Gillen, I have to ask: where have you been at the countless School Board meetings where the swimming pool lobby showed up to advocate for a bigger pool, the tennis lobby came and insisted on better-sited courts, etc. etc.? And then there's the lacrosse lobby -- now that's one united bunch. ;-) Why didn't any one of you show up and speak up with a resounding "No mas!" All the Board heard at those meetings was a constituency solid in their beliefs and consequently, they carried the day.

    As Kristen said earlier, this project (40+ meetings, as Dr. Steinhauer noted recently) has been undertaken with considerable constituent participation. Those with issues have had ample time to weigh in. I am quite sure the School Board would have listened to opposing viewpoints if they had been presented alongside those who favored a variety of facilities.

    Elaine (Gillen), to your point on stuff: I am with you! We are a one-car family that drives a very modest nine-year-old car -- how many others in this conversation can say that? I'm no great fan of shopping and am astounded at the amount of time some people can spend at Wal-Mart, Dollar General and the mall buying stuff of which they already have plenty. We choose to spend our dollars maintaining our home (our single largest investment) and paying for our son's education. I sleep a lot better at night having made these choices. Elaine, are you familiar with the video "The Story of Stuff?" Link here:

    http://www.storyofstuff.com/

    I draw a distinction between accummulating more stuff and making an investment.

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  22. Elaine:
    What makes you think we weren't there!?
    Ask Mark, James, Dan, Carol, Sable, Wilson, Smartschan, Posti if I haven't been active and vocal.
    Been fun, bye
    Dean Spahr

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  23. Elaine (Labalme),

    Your ”where have you been?” argument is based on the false premise that if excess is not challenged early it cannot be challenged at all. Excess is excess. The right time to challenge it is always.

    You claim that there has been “considerable” public participation and “ample” time to weigh in, but good governance requires more: meaningful participation. In this case, meaningful participation demands more than the typical claims of being “open, transparent, and inclusive.” It requires outreach. This project, as Mrs. Posti has said, is likely to be the biggest thing our community will do in our lifetimes. Everybody will be affected. The school board, therefore, had an unusually high burden to reach out to the public to ensure meaningful participation. How did the school board meet this burden? How were seniors represented in the process?

    I contend that the school board has not adequately weighed the public's concerns about the excessive cost of the current plan. The current petitioners are gaining signatures from almost all households they visit, which argues that the public is largely opposed to spending $100 million to renovate the high school. With each signature, the claims that “the community has spoken” in support of the project become harder to believe.

    Cheers,
    Tom

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  24. Dean, I would appreciate not being misquoted - you said - "And that brings us to your original post.GOOD NEWS we going to see 20% savings-- and the buildings coming in at $90MM" I never said that - if you refer back I actually said, "If you do the math, if our $113 M cap gets bids that are 20% less, that would bring our ACTUAL cost down to about $90 M." Just like you, I don't know what the final bid will be...the main word you left out of my quote was "if" - big difference. I would love for the bid to come in as low as possible and I am hopeful that it will.

    BTW - you mentioned the CAC - do you have any reason to believe that their proposed ideas would have come in any less than the current plan? There was never any cost-out for their suggestions - and back to the tennis courts - you may think a 10' concrete wall is a bad idea, but it was pointed out to Mr. R. that in reality the tennis coach was delighted with the new design as it made it much easier to see all courts at the same time since it would be multi-leveled. I'm glad that his needs are being addressed.

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  25. Kristen, you only volunteered at your son's school book fair for 16 minutes?
    How much did you get done?

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  26. Mr. Huston, how your two questions are germane to this conversation is beyond me. Please check your sarcasm at the door and stay on topic.

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  27. huh?????Actually I volunteered at the Foster book fair from 6PM - 9PM...are you doubting my honesty? Shall I provide witnesses?? I posted at 5:34 and then again at 9:10 - what's your point, or are you simply just trying to be nasty? I am a frequent volunteer at both of my children's schools as well as at other events.

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  28. More good news (and on topic!) from Jo Posti's blog, Center Court:

    http://jposti.blogspot.com/2010/03/agenda-for-3810-discussion-meeting.html

    The bid for stadium turf replacement, which was budgeted at $750,000, received a low bid of $432,900, or 43% lower than expected.

    Guess the current bidding climate isn't so bad after all. ;-)

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  29. Kristen writes, "I strongly believe that if this project does not move forward great harm can be done to not only the children, but to the credibility of our town's reputation for excellent schools. I have trust in the process that has taken place thus far."

    Kristen, I see two separate and important points in your comment.

    First you rightly state that something must be done, the situation is critical. I agree with you and I haven't found a single resident who refutes that claim. The evidence is overwhelming.

    Next, you said you "have trust in the process that has taken place thus far." I see a complete agreement on that point between all the commenters on this post.

    The process itself is just the series of steps taken to produce an outcome. The many meetings, committees, and studies are all part of the process. Democracy dictates that vigilance and constructive dissent are critical responsibilities of citizens. With that in mind, asking the board to present evidence and answer difficult questions is a critical part of the process. Challenging the decisions of our representatives is a constructive and important part of the process.

    On dissent Edward R. Murrow said it best, "We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it."

    On vigilance Thomas Jefferson sums it up, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

    I'm thankful for the widespread and vocal views on spending in our community. Of course I find it easier to accept conclusions and decisions based on credible data, sources, and analysis. Still, I firmly agree with George S. Patton who said, "If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."

    Thanks, and I hope you enjoyed the fair. It's our family's favorite!

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  30. I'm very pleased to hear of a 42% savings for turf replacement. It's good surprise, but the extrapolation is faulty.

    I may score a great deal on antique drawer pulls from eBay but that won't make my kitchen renovation 40% cheaper. ;-)

    That doesn't diminish my appreciation of the savings.

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  31. What I would like to know is who in the school district is making some of these estimates. Apparently the bid for the turf replacement is 43% off projections. It's nice to see that it is lower, but does not give me any comfort that our district officials can be so off when dealing with numbers. What does this tell us about their projections for the high school? Do they really have any idea about their estimates, or are they just guesses?
    Joe Wertheim

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  32. Joe W., the projected cost for the high school renovation came from our construction manager, P.J. Dick, not the School Board members.

    Casey, I'm with you -- gratitude for any and all savings.

    'night, all.

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  33. Thanks for your post Casey - I agree with your comments completely. I am all for free speech and critical thinking, and have no expectation that everyone (or anyone) should or will agree with me at any given time. With that being said, I do however have concerns that not all of the chatter is "constructive dissent" - of course that's just my opinion. Much of the dissent seems to have turned to bashing. For example, I'm pretty thick skinned, but I have been repeatedly attacked on this blog and another...only to be bashed again for defending myself as the good, honest citizen and mother that I truly am. I have been called an idiot, a dolt, a bored housewife, a bad mother, and tonight a liar by someone who doubted I was volunteering at my son's school!..you name it. Talk about off-topic! That's fine - I can take it - but the high school renovation really has very little to do with me personally. Time would be better spent dealing with the real issues rather than judging me or anyone else as a person. My concern is that while most people (myself included) desire for the board to try to find ways to lower costs, their ability to work on that very important task could get bogged down by the incredible amounts of time they are having to spend on the less constructive dissent/bashing. I wish we could find more constructive ways to help the board in finding ways to save money rather than just pointing fingers. I want everyone who is reading this to know that I in no way say that in an accusing way to anyone. I realize what a heated and emotional issue this is for many people for many reasons. I respect all sides. I do think that trying to come together to find solutions to lower costs would be much more productive. I don't think there is anyone out there who wants to spend AS MUCH money as possible. We all want to spend as little as possible while achieving what is needed. I realize that there are disagreements on "what is needed". Surely there must be ways to find some common ground. It takes committment, mutual respect, and creative thinking. Are we up to the task? I really don't know. I'll expect more bashing to come from some. Bring it on if you just can't help yourself, but don't expect me to spend time defending myself anymore. I am committing my time to more important things.

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  34. By adding a sixteenth design criteria, a budget of $75 million, for example, can't we go back to the experts and ask them to make it work? They are the professionals, not us. When we had two additions added to our house, we started out with how much we wanted to spend, what our needs were, and asked the contractor to make it work. We were pleased with the results. Doesn't it work like that anymore? Didn't the CAC come up with viable options?
    Elaine Gillen

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  35. Somebody named Kristin Linfante posted 04-MAR-2010 5:34PM EST: "I'm off to volunteer at my son's school book fair...gotta run for now."

    Someone named Kristin Linfante posted again 04-MAR-2010 5:50PM EST.

    Sixteen (16) minutes elapsed between 5:34PM EST and 5:50PM EST.

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  36. Elaine, many in our community are now fixated on this $75 million number and maybe it's because we floated bonds that generated those proceeds for this project and now we'll be doing $75 million of something with the school. The problem is if we only do $75 million of work, we make the most pressing fixes to the buildings (not even) and don't touch the programmatic needs we have today. How long will test scores stay high in antiquated labs? will our thespians have an attentive audience in a sagging theatre? will our athletes enjoy the bonds of teamwork in decaying facilities? will our seniors commune after-hours in dark and dreary spaces? (That reminds me of a local realtor who said recently "dark and dreary doesn't cut it!" She's right. Elaine, I bet your renovations added wonderful light to your home. ;-)

    We need to remember that the last time improvements were made to the high school was in 1972 and that was almost FORTY years ago! I wish like heck something had been done before now -- like ten years ago -- when it would have been so much cheaper. If we put off what needs to be done today, we will surely pay dearly for it ten years from now because things only get more expensive. I'll still be in this community in 10, 20 years -- won't you? is it fair to us, to everyone here, to have to pay for major improvements twice? I say we do it right now and have it last for the next 30, 40, 50 years. But then I've been saying that for two years now -- others, much longer -- and we're all still talking about this as if nothing had been said.

    I take solace in the fact that our community was built largely during the Great Depression and that leap of faith was amply rewarded. I believe the same will happen again with this renovation.

    I have a full plate of work today so all for now.

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  37. To Mr. Huston: perhaps Mrs. Linfante left her home at 5:50 p.m., or sixteen minutes later than originally anticipated? I have no idea, I wasn't at the book fair myself. ;-)

    I won't be publishing any more comments around Mrs. Linfante's time line, tho, this is beyond silly!

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  38. David Huston,

    By way of example, you have no knowledge of my current location, what I'm wearing, who I'm with, or which of my five devices I'm using to make this comment. You don't know when I wrote this or who approved it, or when.

    Circumstantial evidence is a weak case. You fell victim to the classic logical fallacy Circumstantial Ad Hominem.

    David, the participants in this thread are engaged in critical analsys which is a key part of the process for the largest spending project in our community's history. Please don't muddy the waters with nonsense.

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  39. Elaine:
    One last post then I'm done here.
    Forty years is nothing, should maintenance and upgrades been done and should be done. Most certainly, and Fraasch has argued that point.
    I see nothing in the actions of the board that suggest they're making plans for any future enhancements down the road. Roofs will leak, carpet will wear out, auditorium cushions will tear.
    See any line item that suggest 10, 20, 30 years out they'll have changed their ways.
    That's exactly the reason not to overspend!
    God, there are school buildings at Cambridge, UK that have been around for 400 years and still function.
    Pitt, CMU, William & Mary, Yale, Harvard, Princeton all have facilities older than 40 years.
    Our elementary schools that the PDE holds up as examples are older than 40 and seem to be serving their purpose.
    Dean Spahr

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  40. Here's something on-topic:
    http://laborlink.gbca.com/updates/the-rest-of-the-story-why-we-cannot-bid-school-projects-both-ways

    It's an article explaining why bids for school construction come in artificially low.

    ...gotta run for now.

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  41. Elaine (LaBalme) you are correct. The estimates for the high school came from PJ Dick, who has also said that they have already taken into account the fact that bids on other projects have come in lower than originally forecast. So why do you continue to dispute their estimates of $113+ million? And where will the school board find $20 million in savings as they continue to promise?
    Joe Wertheim

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  42. Kristen,

    Please understand, it’s not your beliefs that are potentially harmful as much as your refusal to update your beliefs when presented with credible evidence that your beliefs are mistaken.

    For example, in the blog post that started this conversation, you advanced the belief that our district’s existing cost estimate of $113 million does not take into account the current favorable bidding climate for construction. You advanced the belief that if we act now, we can take advantage of this climate to reduce our costs substantially, perhaps as much as 20 percent. You even “did the math” to show how we could bring our actual costs down to $90 million, a savings of $23 million.

    Yet you have been informed repeatedly that P.J. Dick, our district’s hired construction manager, claims to have already factored those savings into our current estimates. Likewise, you have been informed that the current bidding climate is not something new that has developed in the few months since our estimates were prepared. In the very quotation you took from the Post-Gazette, P.J. Dick’s expert on these matters makes clear that the time frame is years, not months: A few years ago on projects where you would see maybe five or six bidders, you are now seeing 10 or more,” said John Taormina, manager of the school construction project management Division of P.J. Dick Inc. “Competition is stronger so people are willing to make bigger cuts and better deals than two years ago when maybe the plate was a little more full.” (Emphasis mine)

    You see? Even when the very quotation you took from the Post-Gazette challenged your belief that there were substantial new bid savings hidden within our current estimate, you went ahead and broadcast your belief anyway, telling people that they had to act now to “take advantage of this golden opportunity” to claim additional savings.

    That’s what I mean by having the potential to harm to others. If you suggest to people that they’re likely to save an additional $23 million by rushing to the cash register during the big 20%-off sale, when in fact the sale price is already reflected on the price tag, what do you think is going to happen to those people when they get to the cash register? Aren’t they going to get hurt?

    Cheers,
    Tom

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  43. Tom, I think the example of the projected costs and real costs for the new turf are a good example. (see Elaine's previous post taken from Posti's blog) PJ Dick made those estimates too - presumably taking into account the economic climate, and still the bids came in much lower - 43% lower.

    Call me an optimist I guess. Tom, I support the plan. Period. And if the costs come in even lower - fantastic. I really don't see how your crystal ball is any clearer than mine. Until we have that number, no one can predict what it will be. Furthermore, I see no validation in your point that your opinion is not potentially harmful. If this school issue isn't finally dealt with, our district could lose all credibility and no one will want to buy homes here. I'd say that's potentially harmful. You could dismiss it but I won't. This project is not just about taxes, Tom.

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  44. Kristen, I don't know for sure, but I doubt that PJ Dick was responsible for estimates to replace the turf in the stadium. Who was,how was this estimate arrived at, and why was it so inaccurate?
    Joe Wertheim

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  45. Kristen,

    Will you read what you wrote?

    You wrote, “I support the plan. Period.

    That’s what I mean by your refusal to update your beliefs when they are challenged by credible evidence. When you put in writing that you support something “period,” you indicate that you aren’t interested in considering the possibility that you may be wrong.

    You wrote, “I really don't see how your crystal ball is any clearer than mine.

    The reason my crystal ball is likely to be clearer than yours is that I give it what crystal balls need to work properly: evidence. I give it every piece of evidence I can find, and each time I feed it, it shows me a clearer representation of reality.

    You wrote, “I see no validation in your point that your opinion is not potentially harmful.

    First, I advanced no such claim. (Show me where I did.) Second, I know full well that my beliefs, if irrational, could be harmful when acted upon. Why do you think I test my beliefs with evidence? Why do you think I seek out new evidence constantly? Why do you think I ask you and others to show me the evidence that supports your beliefs when they contradict mine? I do these things because I want to find all the evidence I can, especially if it challenges my beliefs, and to update my beliefs with it!

    I’m not in this conversation to “win”; I’m in it to gather all the evidence I can, to make my beliefs as accurate as I can, and to act upon my beliefs as rationally as I can.

    What are you in this conversation to do?

    Cheers,
    Tom

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  46. Kristen, please let me clarify something. I am not suggesting that you have knowingly or dishonestly chosen to block out evidence that challenges your beliefs. Rather, I am claiming that we all have the tendency to block out things we don’t want to see, and that in matters of public policy, where irrational beliefs can harm others, we must force ourselves to consider all the evidence before us, especially evidence that challenges our beliefs. What I am trying to show you is that you aren’t forcing yourself to consider all the evidence. You are allowing your mind to block out things you don’t want to see.

    Cheers,
    Tom

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  47. Tom, I stand by my words that I support the plan. I am not going to go 'round and 'round about it. I'm not even sure what you are arguing about anymore. Is it about what the "perfect" cost-out number would be? Is it about whether kids need a building at all in order to learn? I mean no disrespect, but what exactly is your point? I have heard loud and clear from you and others that I shouldn't expect the bids to come in any lower than the $113M that PJ Dick has given us. I have heard you. That's fine, Tom. Maybe they won't come in lower, but I am still more optimistic in this economic climate than in a stronger one. Even so, I still support the renovation as it stands. I would love for the price to be lower, but I am prepared to accept the consequences of it staying the same. My priorities have schools at the top of the list. We all make choices. Tom, I left San Francisco about 8 years ago because I chose to. The number one reason I left was because it was not a city that could provide my children with a good public education - and it was a wickedly expensive city to live in to boot. My conclusion was to leave. I wasn't forced to leave. I chose to leave. It is all about choices and priorities. I value what we will get out of the renovation. THerefore, I am willing to pay the price. BTW-I am not a millionaire. I spend my money very carefully - no fancy cars, clothes, etc. I rarely use credit cards unless absolutely necessary. But I DO spend money on things that are important to me - and schools are important to me - and I believe they are important to this community. If you google "Mt. Lebanon" you will find that virtually every "description" of this town points out "excellent schools". That's why I moved here, and that's what I'm willing to pay for. Others may disagree. That's fine too. I'm not being unrealistic, Tom. I am just keeping my priorities in mind. Thanks for hearing me out.

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  48. Kristen--
    You left SF because it couldn't provide your kids with a good education and it was wickedly expensive!
    Add that California is broke!
    Think you've just made a case for keeping the project cost down.
    We want to put our money into EDUCATION not bricks and mortar, and we don't want to make Lebo wickedly expensive!
    Dean Spahr

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  49. Snipping this thread as we're covering the same ground. We appreciate everyone's participation.

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