By Sterling McGinn

The Tahquamenon Area Schools (TAS) Board of Education and school administration has run into another challenge with the district’s bond work.

Recent bids for the remainder of the bond project, received by February 1, came in $2.8 million over budget.

The bids were discussed in length at a special board meeting held on February 13. Representatives from Wolgast Corporation, the engineering firm handling the bids, and Integrated Designs Inc. (IDI), the architectural firm, attended the meeting.

Largely due to a rise in material and labor costs and inflation affecting square footage costs, representatives from Wolgast anticipated the bids for the summer of 2024 projects to be over budget, but not to the extent of 2.8 million.

“I somewhat anticipated it to be a little over budget, but I did not expect that amount,” said Craig Meyers, project manager from Wolgast. “We are seeing that across the state, and yes, there are projects that are coming in right at budget, but we are seeing some over budget as well. We were looking at $3.8 million for the bids to come in at, with $400,000 for contingency for things that may come up during our construction.”

The Tahquamenon Area Schools millage totaling $9,750,000 passed in November 2021 to fund remodeling the existing elementary building and security upgrades for the facility. It was the district’s fifth attempt to pass a bond for construction.

A main portion of the project focused on closing the existing high school, which was constructed in 1926-27, and remodeling the former junior high area located on the second floor of the elementary building. High school classrooms will be relocated to the renovated area. The band and music programs will occupy the former elementary gymnasium.

The CTE health and construction classes will be relocated from the shop wing addition on the old high school, to the former science wing in the newer portion of the building. Once all the construction is completed, a brick wall will cover the entrance into the high school.

“My priority is to get everybody out of that high school building, because that is the building that number one, is costing us money with electricity, heating, and you name it, the roof is past its life expectancy, and it is just a supervisory nightmare beyond belief,” said TAS Superintendent Stacy Price. “That needs to be our highest priority because kids are our main focus.”

Projects will be altered and modified to reduce the new bid amounts, including the new library entrance, and library bathrooms, which will eliminate library patrons from coming into the school building.

“The library is a huge thing with its own entrance and of course its bathrooms—that is a huge security issue for me, and it has been since day one,” Price said.

The school-based health program, known as the C.A.M.P., and the Consolidated Community Schools Services offices, will be relocated from the old high school.

Wolgast will address the entire project and eliminate portions of work before placing out for bids. The central office and new entry and driveway projects will be delayed at this time. These driveway projects may require the services of experts from

“After hearing priorities, the office piece and the site work will be pulled, and basically that will allow us to finish the trades wing, the rest of the art room, and get all of the spaces ready to get everybody out of the high school,” said Travis Hongisto of IDI.

Trustee Bruce Klusmeyer questioned the savings from cutting back the central office renovations. “Clearly, that is not $2.8 million,” Klusmeyer said.

“I would agree with you there…some of these bids that you see, we don’t feel these bids are reasonable,” explained Meyers.

The project changes will not be approved until the school board is given detailed plans of the revised projects. The board also voted to reject the over-budget bids.

“The first part that we can potentially put out for bids, with the removal of site work and the offices, will go out for bids hopefully by February 23,” said Meyers. “We are going to have the documents done and we have to get it in front of the state on February 26. … We are going to get that moving immediately, and the office space will be addressed later.”