Mehlville Board of Education member Kathleen Eardley cast the only vote last week against approving a $513,896 contract to construct tennis courts at Bernard Middle School.
Eardley told the Call she believes spending “half a million” dollars on the tennis court project is “a little excessive.”
“And it’s fuzzy math, too, when you look at where it is to get under the $450,000 budget,” she said. “We’re taking a rebate and applying it to something that has nothing to do with the rebate to get (to) that under-budget mark.”
The board unanimously approved Superintendent Eric Knost’s facilities plan in December, which included $450,000 to construct eight tennis courts at the middle school.
The district received five bids ranging in price from $524,806 to $826,000 for the tennis courts. Knost recommended the low bid from Byrne & Jones Construction for approval.
Byrne & Jones’ base bid totaled $524,806.
With three rebates — U.S. Tennis Association, $37,500; USTA Missouri Valley, $20,000; and American Express, $21,730 — the cost comes in at $445,576.
The American Express rebate is from a card the district uses “specifically to pay bills, not run a balance on,” according to Knost. Knost said the district has known for “quite a while” the money from American Express would be coming in at the amount presented.
Because district officials want to “make an effort to keep (the cost) within that $450,(000),” it was attached to the project.
Value engineering also is expected to reduce the cost by $10,910, bringing the bid down to $513,896 — the amount approved by the board. Knost said value engineering is asking the contractor to consider options that would “drive the price further down” and are not affected by USTA specifications, St. Louis County or Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District guidelines and permitting.
A value engineering example Knost gave at the board meeting was to “seed and straw” instead of sodding the Bernard site.
A contingency of roughly $15,000 puts the total cost right at the $450,000 budget.
Information provided to the board also includes two alternates for lighting. The board did not approve the alternates. Knost said he never brought the project to the board suggesting lights, but it was requested during the process.
Director of Facilities Steve Habeck said it does not benefit the district to have any work completed now for future installation of lighting at the courts. There are “really no savings” to preparing for lighting now, Habeck told the board.
Habeck said Byrne & Jones is “basically the biggest sports complex installer” in the Midwest. The company has installed tennis courts at multiple St. Louis schools, including Ladue and Lindbergh high schools.