Construction contracts totaling $23.9 million were approved Monday night by the Harford County Board of Education for the long-awaited replacement of Youth's Benefit Elementary School in Fallston.
"It's been a long haul," HCPS Chief of Administration Joe Licata said following the 9-1 vote at the final board meeting of the 2013-14 school and fiscal years. "Many of these [Youth's Benefit] folks have been with us for the duration, and I know I'm happy to finally see this project getting under way."
Board Vice President Francis "Rick" Grambo voted against the contract awards. Student Representative Benjamin Barsam, who participated in his final board meeting, was also able to cast a vote for the contracts. Barsam graduated from Bel Air High School June 2.
Licata has said the replacement building, which will be built on two levels around and over the two existing buildings on the Youth's Benefit site off Route 152, will cost about $43 million to construct and equip.
Construction is on schedule to begin by the end of the summer, and school officials expect the 149,000-square-foot building to be open by the summer of 2017 at the start of the 2017-18 school year.
Students will continue to attend classes at the existing buildings and in portable classrooms during construction.
Youth's Benefit parents have been working since the late 1990s to get the aging school rebuilt.
The school system received local funding to conduct a scope study in 2006, according to a chart presented to board members Monday by Cornell Brown, assistant superintendent for operations, who noted the project had been placed on hold for three years because of the local and state fiscal climate; it was reactivated in 2013.
"I think we're finally, after quite a few years, at a great point in the project timeline," Brown said.
He said plans have had to be adjusted over the years to reflect changes to the scope of the project, as well as updates to local building codes, the consideration of environmental site conditions and state's prevailing wage law.
Under the law, which takes effect July 1, workers on a local government construction project worth $500,000 that receives more than 50 percent of its funding from the state must receive wages and benefits at a level that meets wage and benefit rates prevailing in that locality, according to a Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation web page on the law. The law also applies to state construction projects.
"We worked diligently to get these [bid] packages out and get before the board so that we are more fiscally responsible and not, come July 1, have to inflate that project budget because of that legislation that was passed," Brown said.
Twenty-one firms offered bids for eight areas of the project. Harford County Public Schools uses "multiple prime" contracting, in which the overall project is broken into multiple bid packages, Licata and Brown explained.
The board approved contracts with eight firms, including a $1.6 million concrete contract with Mumford & Miller Concrete Inc. of Middletown, Del.; a $3.2 million masonry contract with Karon Masonry Inc. of Beltsville; a $1.8 million steel contract with Strait Steel Inc. of Greencastle, Pa.; a $3.9 million general carpentry contract with MRP Contractors LLC of Baltimore; a $960,145 roofing contract with Orndorff & Spaid Inc. of Beltsville; a $689,695 storefront/curtain wall contract with ECP Ltd.; an $8.2 million mechanical contract with Rommel Cranston Service of Linthicum; and a $3.3 million contract with Crown Electric, according to documents provided by school officials for the board meeting.
Brown said two contracts for site work and drywall have been rebid to get "better results," and new bids will be brought to the board during the summer.
When asked by board members what bid prices the school system had received for those packages, Brown declined to say publicly because the bid process is ongoing.
"As we go back out on the street, we'd like to be able to maintain our process," he said.