By Konstantine Fekos
The Cochranton Area Public Library Board of Trustees is moving forward with the bidding process regarding the new library’s future construction and plans to meet with and possibly interview the four contractors who submitted bids.
The trustees met with David Walter, senior vice president for New York-based architectural firm Clark Patterson Lee, during a special meeting Wednesday night to discuss Phase 1 options and gain insight as to what potential cost-saving changes can be negotiated within an approximate 180-day period in which the bids will remain valid for selection.
“There’s two ways to make that happen,” Walter suggested. “Come up with a list of changes for each of the four contractors to review or pick one and negotiate prior to signing a contract.”
Any cosmetic, non-structural aspects of the project are negotiable with the bidders at this point with the trustees reserving the right to any final say, he added, as long as they don’t affect the health and safety of future occupants.
The board agreed to organize a small committee within the coming weeks to write up questions for each of the contractors in preparation for potential individual meetings.
“We can give them suggestions for changes up front and they can prepare answers,” said Brenda Wait, trustee.
Even if a decision is made, groundbreaking isn’t likely to occur until spring, perhaps late April or early May, according to Mark Roche, project adviser to the trustees.
The project may take approximately nine months to finish, he estimated.
In the meantime, Clark Patterson Lee agents can look over project designs and submit any ideas for potential savings and even send a representative to assist with the interviews, Walter said.
Approximate main bids received include $570,233.35 from Roche Builders, $526,858 from Hill Construction, $591,086 from Norbert B. Miller Construction and $514,000 from Bernarding’s Builders, all based in Cochranton.
Ideally, the board of trustees would like to see project costs trimmed back to their previously budgeted figures of about $480,000, based on existing funds and amounts the board believes can be raised prior to payment arrangements through library functions or patronage, according to Roche.
“There are issues in (the project manual) I think we can work out,” he said, mentioning some of the current designs may be considered over-engineered when lined up with available funds. “I’m thinking we can engineer it down to $480,000 or close.”
The bottom line, trustees agreed, is that the final budget is the final budget.
“You can’t get blood from a stone,” said Joan Kardos, treasurer, placing some responsibility for higher costs on the architectural designs, some of which have been altered, including the roof shape, potential attic space and pillar structures. “Without those changes, we’d be close to $800,000.”
Architectural concerns raised by trustees included smaller porch space, which may require compensation through landscaping, and possibly larger sidewalk space for activities or general usability.
The four bids included alternate costs for additional features, including a lift mechanism for cleaning and bulb replacement of a large foyer light and exterior pole-mounted light sighting and wiring installation.
These costs, as well as alternate costs for performance and payment bonds regarding material and labor may be dropped, according to trustees, who confirmed the willingness of each contractor to look at potential cost savings and work toward the project’s affordability.
“These things always come in over budget,” Roche said, “but there’s always a way to bring the cost down.”
Phase 1 bids do not include cabinetry, shelving or any Phase 2 work, which includes demolition of the current building, parking lot paving and landscaping, Kramer said.
While official library parking will not be available until after the current building’s demolition, adjacent lot parking and some on-street parking will be available in the meantime, Kardos said.