Cheney Free Press -


Cheney schools address project cost overages

Items in schematic design process deleted to bring elementary school projects back into bond budget


October 19, 2017

The correct goofy faces Due to incorrect information, two Windsor Elementary School students were misidentified in a photo in last week's Education section of the Cheney Free Press. The correct girls making goofy faces during the Wildcat Fitness Frenzy are left to right above: Gabriella Senchenko and Kyrah Smelser. And they're still pretty goofy.

The Cheney School Board received an update at its Oct. 11 meeting on how district staff and design personnel intend to address $2.165 million in cost overruns at three elementary schools scheduled for renovation and expansion as part of a $52 million capital facilities bond passed by voters in February.

Most of the overages, an estimated $1.1 million, occurs at Windsor Elementary School next to Westwood Middle School in the Windsor/Marshal area. District Superintendent Rob Roettger told the board a meeting with construction manager OAC and architectural firm ALSC was scheduled for last week to address the design issues and review solutions, such as reconfiguring the school bus drop off/pick up area to take advantage of a fire lane between Windsor and Westwood, and reducing space in a planned new multipurpose room.

Overages for work at Sunset Elementary School in Airway Heights originally totaled $792,000, but had been trimmed to $1,400. Changes to the layout of the building include splitting the 10 classrooms between two additions on each wing rather than on the west end of the southern wing as proposed.

At Betz Elementary School in Cheney, overages originally topped $273,000, but have since been shave to around $46,000. One of the issues surrounding Betz is the current design includes the continued use of portables at the building, something district resident Bill Johns noted during citizen comments the district told voters during bond discussion it wanted to eliminate.

Johns said the current design shows special education students remaining in the portables. Johns also brought up the overages amounts from the Sept. 20 meeting, noting the architect involved, ALSC, is the same firm working on the Airway Heights Recreation Center - which is $2.2 million over the $13 million promised during its bond vote - and the architect on the Cheney High School expansion project in 1994-95, which was also over budget and required cuts in design before finally being approved.

Johns said some of the items cut from the high school project have since come up as issues being addressed by the current capital projects bond.

"Those things will come back and bite us later as taxpayers," he said. "I'm not sure what you can do to get them back into the bond."

Roettger acknowledged the portables would continue to be used by the district's Student Connections program, which features more focused attention on students and therefore needed to be centralized. He added the program instructor came to district staff and requested it remain in portables, due to needs in addressing students who act out and aren't ready to be part of the mainstream student body.

Roettger also said the direct intervention room in the new wing at Betz is larger than originally proposed, taking up one more classroom space. Moving it to its own room in the new wing will free up additional classroom space in the existing building.

OAC project manager Rusty Pritchard also said that meetings between district staff and architects had produced a "meeting of the minds" on mechanical and electrical system aspects, removing assumptions about how things might be designed.

"We haven't changed any of the educational components at all," he added.

"Our main goal is to deliver what we said to the public," Roettger said. He added that in discussions, elements that were needed were retained whereas elements district personnel would like were retained only if their inclusion wouldn't keep the projects over budget. If not, they were removed.

In other capital projects news, the board unanimously approved awarding the role of general contractor on the high school project to Lydig Construction, appropriating $144,000 to start pre-design work. Lydig will access the building to review conditions, working with staff at the district, ALSC and OAC as part of the general contractor/construction manager model for the project.

According to contract language, "As the design progress up to 90 percent complete, CPS (Cheney Public Schools) will begin Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) negotiations with Lydig Construction." Negotiations are currently scheduled for June 2018, and if successful, the contract with Lydig will be adjusted to reflect the agreed GMP.

According to the February bond, the high school expansion and renovation was estimated to cost $35.10 million.

John McCallum can be reached at


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