WINSLOW — Winslow High School will get an expanded cafeteria as part of the district’s renovation plan, paid for by savings from construction bids that came in more than $200,000 below what had been expected and unused contingency funds.

The cafeteria addition, expected to cost $589,899, according to Superintendent Peter Thiboutot, was unanimously approved by the school board at its last meeting.

Winslow school Superintendent Peter Thiboutot, left, pictured in May, said being able to expand the cafeteria was “a huge win for all of us,” while school board Chairman Joel Selwood expects work on the expansion to begin soon.

The cafeteria had been cut from the plans after a February estimate predicted the project would cost $3.1 million more than the taxpayer-approved $8.1 million. Now, a 410-seat auditorium is the only major feature of the original design that will not be built.

The overall plan will allow the district to decommission the aged Winslow Junior High School building, moving sixth-graders into the elementary school and seventh- and eighth-graders into the high school.

Thiboutot called the news about the cafeteria “a huge win for all of us.”

“With more space (in the cafeteria), we can provide more points of service for students, which essentially means they can get their food faster and have more time to eat their food in a comfortable setting,” Thiboutot said Thursday.

The high school lunch period is 22 minutes, according to Principal Chad Bell. The new cafeteria will be shared by high school students and seventh- and eighth-graders.

Joel Selwood, chair of the school board, said that construction manager Peter Pelletier, of Ledgewood Construction, is working on drafting a detailed drawing of the cafeteria addition. Work on the rest of the building has been underway since July.

“Right now, they’re pouring the last pour of the foundation for the band room addition right now,” Selwood said. “I don’t know the exact schedule, but the plan is they’ll be going right into getting started on the cafeteria expansion — doing the ground work and foundation of that as soon as they finish up the detailed drawings.”

Pelletier told the school board at the end of June he expected the district could afford to add the cafeteria back in — as well as all of the “add-alternates” — after bids came in low for the rest of the project. Add-alternates were things administrators identified as desirable but not essential when they were working on cutting down costs in the spring.

Construction Manager Peter Pelletier, of Ledgewood Construction, pictured here at a June meeting of the Winslow School Board, said then he expected the district could afford to add the cafeteria back in — as well as all of the “add-alternates” — after bids came in low for the rest of the project.

Thiboutot said the actual cost of materials for the rest of the renovations ended up being even lower than those bid estimates, which gave them more funds to work with on the cafeteria.

“The initial soft costs, the bids that came in were higher than the actuals because everybody was concerned about the cost of steel rising and had factored that in,” Thiboutot said.

Steel prices did not end up increasing, though.

The district will also dip into a $650,000 project and bid contingency fund that went untouched and is no longer needed as a reserve.

In June, Pelletier estimated the cafeteria addition to cost $256,000. The school board then voted to have Stephen Blatt Architects create a design and Pelletier to put it out for more exact pricing.

Earlier estimates from Pelletier placed the cafeteria expansion at about $336,000. Thiboutot said he was unsure why the ultimate cost for the cafeteria is now $589,000, but noted the $336,000 estimate was made before the plans had been sent out to be priced and when “it was just someone’s idea and nothing had been vetted.” He said he did not recall Pelletier’s $256,000 projection.

Project costs have been contentious since the idea was first proposed in 2017. Voters rejected the initial $10.33 million plan that November. When the school board came back with an $8.6 million proposal in 2018, the Town Council reduced it to $8.1 million, which narrowly passed at the polls in June 2018.

Thiboutot and Selwood said the work done so far has gone smoothly. Crews have finished most of the foundation and footing work for the gymnasium and music room expansions, and many of the pipes have been laid, according to Thiboutot.

Construction on these additions, as well as numerous renovations inside the high school and elementary school, are expected to wrap by September 2020.

“As far as the project as a whole,” Selwood said, “we’re on schedule and there have been no surprises.”


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