District plows ahead with Measure G projects

So far, so good for Claremont Unified School District’s capitol projects funded through?Measure G.

Work completed and underway has thus far come at or under budget, said Rick Cota, CUSD executive director of facilities and project management.

“We’re about a third of the way through, and we’ve been able to come in at budget when it comes to the bidding process,” Mr. Cota said. “That’s always a concern, that you might budget a certain amount and it comes in higher. So far we’ve been able to come in at budget or lower. And that is really good, because any savings we have at this point will just be passed on to the future projects.”

The $58 million Measure G general obligation bond, which Claremont voters approved in November 2016, is the engine driving six active phase one projects at El Roble Intermediate and Oakmont, Sumner, Mountain View, Sycamore and Chaparral elementary schools, with new modularly built, permanent classrooms being constructed to replace portable classrooms the district had been using for many years.

The district anticipates plan approval from the Division of the State Architect (DSA) for similar portable replacement projects at Condit and Vista soon, at which time the jobs will go out to bid, Mr. Cota said.

Phase one items that have been completed include HVAC installation, new bleachers and restroom renovation at Claremont High School’s main gymnasium. Also district-wide roofing project, outdated HVAC replacement across CUSD, and some electrical, data and technology infrastructure work.

After the modular classroom projects are complete, CUSD will tackle four jobs concurrently: The long anticipated revamp of El Roble’s and CHS’s swimming pools, a new locker room at El Roble and the modernization of CHS’s locker room.

The swimming pool and locker room project plans have been submitted to the state architect and are awaiting approval. After the anticipated thumbs up, which could come as soon as next month, the work will immediately go out to bid.

“We’re hoping to have shovels in the ground in June,” Mr. Cota said, adding that the four jobs will likely take eight to 10 months to complete.

El Roble’s locker room, built in the late 1950s, will likely be gutted and repurposed based on the school’s needs, Mr. Cota said. The existing locker rooms “don’t meet the current standards for [the Americans With Disabilities Act] when it comes to total space that needs to be allocated for each student. And we’re kind of landlocked, because there’s no room to expand.”

The district explored the possibility of retrofitting the current locker rooms, but found it less costly to build a new structure, he added.

The district did a great deal of anticipatory groundwork in front of the bond measure’s passage in November 2016, Mr. Cota said, and because of that pre-planning, was able to secure bids months in advance of construction. It was an educated gamble that appears to have paid off for CUSD, as the bids came in front of domestic construction cost increases due to tariffs imposed by the Trump administration, which are just beginning to trickle down to contractors.

“That’s kind of an unexpected little wrinkle,” Mr. Cota said. “We had secured contracts literally a week ahead of those tariffs. Those companies had to honor those prices. So, with things like that, it helps when we’re ready to go when we’re able to go. That’s basically our thing: time is money, and we don’t want to waste time or money.”

Securing pre-tariff bids was a mix of good luck and good planning.

“There are certain things that we could do to put us in position of getting bids ahead of a tariff,” Mr. Cota said. “Our thing is, I don’t want to wait one extra day if I don’t have to. That’s why it’s so important for us to have everything planned, so that I could go out to bid as soon as humanly possible, before we get in a bidding war with other districts.”

Mr. Cota said CUSD will have a better idea of whether or not the tariffs will have an affect on the remainder of the district’s Measure G projects when it goes to bid for the next phase of work in the spring.

“We have contingencies built into the budget, and also for unexpected or unknown circumstances. We were very conservative in building the budgets, so our hope is that if there is any increase in commodity [costs], those contingency amounts will cover it.”

Natural disasters, political upheaval and cyclical economic spasms can all make long-term planning of large projects problematic, Mr. Cota said.

“There are so many unforeseen circumstances with the economic environment, politics and all of the above,” Mr. Cota said. “That’s why we’re building contingencies in for unforeseen circumstances in the budgets, because I’d rather plan for them and hope for the best, than to hope it doesn’t happen and then be behind the eight ball when it does happen.”

When all’s said and done, Measure G projects will have taken about four years and addressed 14 improvements: District-wide roofing, electrical upgrades, portable classroom replacement and outdated HVAC replacement; HVAC installation, new bleachers and restroom renovations at CHS’s gym; El Roble and CHS swimming pool rehab; El Roble and CHS locker room replacement and rehab, respectively; a new student center and music building at CHS; and the final project, elementary classroom modernization at various CUSD sites.

In the end, district administrators feel the Measure G funds will make a significant dent in addressing CUSD’s most pressing safety and infrastructure upgrades and improvements, but the hard truth is they won’t fix everything.

“Certainly this portion of the needs will be a big step in the right direction,” Mr. Cota said. “Unfortunately, this $58 million was never meant to have the whole district caught up in every single need. It was just what was most important at this point. We certainly will have future needs to address at the school sites, because our newest school is over 50 years old. There are certain challenges when it comes to addressing every classroom, which we would have loved to have done, but at this point we are only able to do a select number of projects, as voted on by the public.”

Regardless, Mr. Cota said the district is committed to being good a steward of the Measure G funds.

“It’s our department’s commitment to maximize every dollar, so at the end of this everyone gets what they expected. It’s really important as a taxpayer that if you were told 14 projects were going to be completed, that you do what you say you were going to do. I think we’re well on our way to accomplishing that goal.”

—Mick Rhodes

mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

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