Rising labor costs forces elimination of Prop S projects

MHS stadium restrooms, transportation building cut


By Erin Achenbach, News Editor

New stadium restrooms at Mehlville High School and a new district transportation building funded by Proposition S most likely will not come to fruition due to increased construction costs. 

Superintendent Chris Gaines told the Board of Education May 19 that staff would most likely be formally be asking the board to remove the two projects from the Prop S priority list in June. 

The two projects are part of Prop S, the $35 million no-tax-rate increase bond measure passed by voters in April 2021. The bond is being used to fund facility upgrades and secure entry vestibules across all of Mehlville’s buildings

“Based on where we sit today, more than likely we’ll come to you in June and ask you to formally eliminate those two projects,” Gaines told the board. “We’re seeing the cost escalations go up too much and if we hope to pull off the security vestibules everywhere and do the classroom addition, it doesn’t look like we’re gonna be able to do those two projects.” 

Gaines estimates that eliminating the two projects could save about $4 million. 

In addition to eliminating the two projects, the board may also be considering the addition of an in-house project manager to oversee Prop S. 

“Those proposals (for a project manager) are due June 3,” Gaines said. “Kind of have two roads on that. We may have an idea of where those land at the June 9 meeting but definitely the second meeting in June we should have a better handle on where we are with those.” 

The superintendent also told the board that increased costs, as well as permit delays and other obstacles, had changed the timeline of some of the projects. 

“We’ve tweaked the timeline for some things … We’re looking at probably trying to go with a more efficient and less expensive model for the security vestibule at Washington,” Gaines said. “We’re gonna investigate what we’re doing at Bernard Middle as a cost-saving measure.” 

Earlier at the May 19 meeting, the board approved a $5.39 million bid for the construction of the secure entry vestibule at Bierbaum Elementary. Gaines cautioned that daily operations at the school would be disrupted to install the vestibule; the school will lose its front office, nurse’s office and two classrooms during the construction period. The early childhood center at Bierbaum will be temporarily housed Trautwein during that time frame as well. 

Other projects scheduled to begin this summer include HVAC at Beasley Elementary, a large HVAC project at Rogers Elementary and roof work at Washington Middle. Those projects are expected to wrap up before school starts in August. 

Projects that will begin this summer and most likely go into the start of school include the Oakville Elementary parking lot and entrances and restrooms at OHS. 

“Altogether, that accounts for about $13.7 million worth of construction that we’ll be unleashing over the next 14 months or so, so it’s going to be busy,” Gaines said. “It’s going to impact a lot of buildings. We’re gonna have about nine buildings where we’re starting work and continuing work into next school year.” 

Earlier action in April by the board has also altered the project timeline. On April 14 the board approved a resolution delaying several projects including Buerkle Middle cafeteria restrooms, additional restrooms and road widening at Beasley Elementary, a second site entrance at Hagemann Elemenetary and reconfiguration of Trautwein’s staff parking lot. 

It’s estimated that the board will go to bid for the Hagemann and Trautwein projects in early 2023, as well for the projects at Buerkle, Mosaic Elementary and Forder Elementary. Phase two of the reconstruction at Bierbaum will go out to bid in spring of 2023, followed by bids for the projects at MHS, John Cary Early Childhood Center and Beasley in mid 2023. Projects at Wohlend Elementary, Oakville Middle and Point Elementary will bid in fall 2023. 

Gaines said that the projects bid so far have been a mix of both overestimates and underestimates. Many of the HVAC projects as well as the OHS entrance and restrooms have come under budget, allowing the district to free up funds to address projects that came in over budget, like Bierbaum, the OHS ballfields and the scope of work at Rogers Bernard and Oakville Elementary. 

“It’s the bigger construction projects that we’ve kind of seen going over,” Gaines said.