The Tacoma School Board has awarded a bid to build the new Arlington Elementary School to Neeley Construction & Cabinet Co. of Puyallup — the same company involved in building the new Wainwright Intermediate School in Fircrest that is behind schedule.
The school district has blamed a “perfect storm” of record winter rainfall, unusual site cleanup requirements and a shortage of labor and materials for the Wainwright holdup, which could delay Wainwright’s opening — originally scheduled for September — until January. But district Chief Operations Officer Steve Murakami told the school board last week that he’s confident the company will do a good job on Arlington, in South Tacoma.
The school board April 28 voted unanimously to award the Arlington contract to Neeley, which was the low bidder at an estimated $16.9 million. Three other companies bid on the project.
School board member Debbie Winskill said she believed the public would be concerned about another contract with Neeley, given the problems at Wainwright. She asked whether the district had discussed the issue with the company.
Murakami said he had, “immediately upon receipt of the bid.”
But he said the company has been building schools for more than 25 years, and that it has a “solid reputation.”
This is a different type of construction... They will excel at this.
Chief Operations Office Steve Murakami
“This is a different type of construction, and it is at a different site without the EPA mitigation, soil remediation project aspects,” he told the board. “It’s a timber-framed building, one-story. They will excel at this. This is a good fit for them.”
District construction and planning Director Rob Sawatzky said the bid acceptance was in accordance with board policy and state law, which encourages public entities to accept the lowest bid.
While the school district may, at its discretion, reject the bid of any contractor who has failed to perform satisfactorily on a previous contract, “that threshold can be difficult to prove, since many factors and players are involved in both positive and negative performance on a project.”
450 Student capacity of new Arlington Elementary School
Meanwhile, a Tacoma city hearing examiner has denied an appeal from a neighborhood group that could have delayed Arlington construction, which is scheduled to start this summer.
The South Tacoma Neighborhood Council in February appealed the city’s issuance of a permit for the project. But the hearing examiner on Wednesday denied the appeal, which had centered on traffic concerns and school district errors in filing documents with a state agency.
Hearing examiner Phyllis Macleod said the district’s traffic analysis — and the city’s review of it — was sufficient. She also ruled that the failure to file documents was a harmless clerical error. Starting an environmental review process over again, as requested by the neighborhood group, wouldn’t substantially affect the outcome and would “simply delay construction of a school that will provide undisputed benefits to the students and families in the area,” Macleod wrote.
Arlington houses around 325 students but is being rebuilt with a 450-student capacity.
“We are excited about being able to move forward and provide Arlington students and families with a world-class learning facility,” Sawatzky said.
Arlington is one of 14 major remodeling or replacement projects Tacoma Public Schools has undertaken as part of a $500 million capital construction bond approved by voters in 2013. During the year of construction, Arlington kids will be bused to the district’s transition site at McKinley Elementary School. The new Arlington is scheduled to open in September 2017.
More information on Wainwright
Head to the Tacoma Public Schools website at www.tacoma.k12.wa.us and click on the “Building for Achievement” page.