South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Increased construction costs, supply chain issues force Mehlville to reprioritize Prop S projects

Mehlville Superintendent Chris Gaines talks to a teacher in a hallway while schools were all-virtual in fall 2020.

Supply chain issues and higher-than-anticipated costs are extending construction times on projects for Mehlville School District’s Proposition S, the $35 million no-tax-rate increase bond measure passed in April 2021 for safety and facility upgrades. 

At the Board of Education meeting Feb. 24, Superintendent Chris Gaines told the board that it was “becoming abundantly clear” that supply and construction costs “have escalated well above” original estimates and that the $35 million bond measure would no longer be enough to cover the costs of the projects laid out. 

“As we look at the finances and what we’ve spent so far, we’re gonna have to start a conversation around what projects may fall away. We’re just not gonna have the funds to do it,” Gaines said. “It’s not a Mehlville problem, it’s something that districts all over are facing but it’s something that we’re gonna have to figure our way through.” 

More than 80 percent of voters approved Prop S for “Safe Schools, Safe Kids,” last year. The money is being used to fund the installation of secure entry vestibules at all of the district’s 18 schools, as well as to address facility needs identified by the Facilities Steering Committee during an 18-month review of all of the district’s buildings.

“We are seeing some projects that were a little simpler than first thought,” Gaines said. “Some projects – we put together something we think is going to work and then we realize that … issues are really going to drive up the costs.” 

The district held two listening sessions the first two weeks of March to gather feedback from the community about how to prioritize the remaining Prop S projects with remaining funds. Gaines said the raw data from those meetings would be shared with the Facilities Steering Committee, Finance Committee and Facilities Committee ahead of a joint committee meeting April 6, with recommendations on how to reprioritize the remaining projects brought to the board April 14. 

Despite the setbacks, the district is proceeding with some of the projects as slated. At the February meeting, the board approved a $1.63 million bid with Castle Construction for Oakville Elementary’s parking lot renovations and playground expansion. 

 At the March 17 board meeting, Gaines said cost estimates for the security entrance and restroom renovations at Oakville High School were within budget after reducing the scope of work. Bids for that project opened March 15, with an anticipated vote by the board April 14. 

“The low bidder (for OHS) is a contractor none of us have ever heard of. The references so far on that contractor appear to be pretty favorable but we do anticipate having a recommendation,” Gaines said. 

Bids were scheduled to open April 5 for work at Blades Elementary, but Gaines said the district’s architect team requested that be pushed back another week to see if they could get more interested contractors.

Although the board approved the OES parking lot in February, Gaines told the board at the March meeting that permitting continues to be a process that “drags on and on.” 

“That’s holding up our ability to really move forward. … The board has already accepted that bid, that contractor would like to get started on some of the work that could be done before school is out but we have to get all of this property stuff settled beforehand,” Gaines said. 

Other projects coming soon include building improvements at Point, Rogers and Oakville Elemtaries, as well as Bernard Middle. Bids are scheduled to open April 19 with recommendations to the board April 28.

As of March 17, the district has spent a little over $2.41 million in Prop S expenditures, with a little over $34.99 million remaining. 

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