Prop S improvements begin with HVAC and softball fields

Projects will primarily finish on time despite bid delays


Photo by Erin Achenbach

The campaign committee for Mehlville School District’s Proposition S, Mehlville-Oakville United, hosted a donut drive-thru March 13, 2021, at Mehlville High School, Washington Middle School and Oakville Middle/Wohlwend Elementary. The event featured free donuts, “Yes on S” car painting and committee members dressed in costumes to raise awareness about the bond measure, the district’s first in over 20 years.

By Erin Achenbach, News Editor

Now that the historic vote to pass the Mehlville School District’s first bond issue in nearly 30 years is in the past, work is underway on the projects funded by Proposition S.

As the district starts to get “out of the gate, things are starting to happen,” Superintendent Chris Gaines said in the first Prop S update to the Board of Education April 29.

More than 80 percent of voters in April approved Prop S, for “Safe Schools, Safe Kids,” a $35 million no -tax-rate-increase bond measure. The money will be used to fund facility upgrades across the district, including the installation of secure entry vestibules at all of the district’s 18 schools. The projects were chosen by the district’s Facilities Steering Committee composed of parents, staff and community members, which met over 18 months pre-pandemic and toured every school.

Due to lower interest rates and a bond premium required as part of the negotiated bond sale conducted by financial adviser L.J. Hart, the bond issue will actually fund $38 million in projects.

“It’s just project, project, project time. We have split all of the lists that came out of the Facilities Steering Committee … into these large bid packages that will be going through the architects and have a process that we have to deal with with all of those,” said Gaines in April. “We got all these other smaller projects … they are things we are used to dealing with. HVAC, roofing and in some places, the fence. … Things we are used to doing on an annual basis.”

All the upgrades have been divided into nine packages, with bid packages one through four focusing on work at, in this order,  Bernard Middle, Blades Elementary, Oakville Elementary, Oakville High, Bierbaum Elementary, the new transportation building by Mehlville High, plus Point and Rogers elementaries.

Bids for the first four bid packages were originally scheduled to go out September 2021 and March 2022, with work expected to be completed by Fall 2022. However, because of current inflation and supply costs, bidding dates have been pushed back.

“We have to be smart about when we approach these bids. And so … in an effort to maximize the impact that we have with Prop S, we’re trying to be strategic about when bids are presented,” said Executive Director of Planning and Development Chad Dickemper at the June 10 board meeting. “We still expect to be primarily on schedule.”

Bids are now expected to go out for the first four bid packages between December 2021 and March 2022, with work expected to be completed by fall and winter of 2022. Bierbaum Elementary is one of the more extensive projects since it is getting a new library and storm shelter. That construction is anticipated to be completed by March 2023.

Bid packages five through eight will focus on, in this order, Hagemann and Trautwein elementaries, Washington and Buerkle middle schools, Mosaic and Forder elementaries, Mehlville High, Beasley Elementary and the John Cary Early Childhood Center. Bids are expected to go out starting in July 2022 through July 2023, with work anticipated to be completed in summer 2023 and summer 2024 depending on the project.

The last bid package will go to Wohlwend Elementary and Oakville Middle, which are next to each other. That work will go out to bid in fall 2023 and wrap up in May 2024.

“(What) we believe is going to take an excessive amount of time has to do with all of the permitting and review that will be done by the (St. Louis) County and MSD (Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District).  … That part is slow,” Gaines said in April. “Bierbaum and transportation are two of the more complicated projects. …. We have already started in earnest with our architects, bringing in principals, teachers and secretaries to talk about the design in some of these cases.”

Some of the Prop S work is already underway following approval by the school board, including a bid in April for HVAC work at Forder.

The board also approved bids for softball and baseball field upgrades at Oakville High School June 10, with construction beginning this July and wrapping up in October.

High bids for the fields at Mehlville High School have postponed that project until a later date when bids can be combined with the Prop S work on the transportation area.

“We do believe what we’re experiencing is transitory inflation and in consultation with our architects and experts, they believe those costs will eventually settle,” said Dickemper. “If we pair the transportation site work with the work that will be completed for that transportation garage, etcetera, that we may be able to scale that work to our advantage.”