Sticker shock could scuttle York Tech gym project

York County School of Technology, or York Tech, in York Township, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

If bids for a new York County School of Technology gym come in over budget, Joint Operating Authority board members will not approve the project, one board member said.

Authority member James Sanders — who represents York Suburban School District —  reported to district board members in April that cost estimates came in 15-20% higher than an architect initially projected.

“The consensus of the room was that I’m not going back to my board and asking for any more money,” he said.

The project budget is $10.2 million, but cost estimates are now $11.25 million. That's after cost-savings options carved $1 million out of it, according to March 7 JOA meeting minutes. 

York Suburban board Vice President Lois Ann Schroeder — who sits on York Tech's Joint Operating committee, overseeing programming decisions — said she’d heard the JOA wants to get some hard numbers but has no plans to scrap the project.

But Sanders said that wasn’t the case. Unless it comes in at the approved budget or below, "there (are) not the votes in the room,” he said.

York Tech Business Manager Jon Boyer said estimates might be coming in high because of a tough market — lots of jobs and limited contractors — but incorporating cost-saving alternatives and changing aspects of the design are always an option.

A motion was made at the March JOA meeting to put the project out for bid with the recommended alternatives, and it passed 8-4, with Timothy Bieber, Charles DeLauter, Richard Plesic and Todd Grove voting against it, according to minutes.

Bids opened April 1, and the return deadline was extended from May 1 to May 15 to increase chances for a viable bidder, Boyer said.

“We hope every contractor that can actually will put a bid in for it,” he said.

The original contract with Lancaster-based Marotta/Main Architects, signed in November 2017, was for a 30,000-square-foot addition to the school, adjoining the existing gym. That project had a $9 million budget.

After a land purchase adjacent to school property was settled the following June, the JOA voted to move the gym onto the new land and separate it from the main building to better incorporate future capital projects.

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Authority member William Lytle touted the benefits of a new location that could be used for weekend rentals and reduce stormwater management costs, and members of the JOA were in favor of the transition, according to June and July meeting minutes.

The design of the gym evolved to include team rooms, a visitor’s locker room, a basketball court with 1,648 seats, an athletic lobby, 2,048-seat capacity bleachers surrounding a track and and future-concept renderings including a football field and parking for 320.

"The design is pretty lofty," Schroeder said, and one York Suburban board member questioned its feasibility.

But Boyer said future concepts are not included in current cost estimates because the only part of the project being built is the gym itself — and its footprint has not changed.

Rather than “Monday morning quarterbacking,” it’s being designed in such a way that other add-ons, such as a football field, will be possible in the future, he said.

“The original design was pie in the sky,” Sanders said. Estimates had reached $11.8 million, but the architect modified it and scaled back costs, according to JOA minutes.

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The goal is to be conservative, Boyer said, and the project even includes unfinished sections that tech students would complete.

York Tech will receive general, plumbing, HVAC and electrical bids through online submissions, which Marotta/Main Architects will read at 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 15, at the school.

The winning bid would be chosen at the next authority meeting, at 7 p.m. June 6.