BY STEFANIE JACKSON, Eastern Shore Post —
Northampton County Public Schools received a bid of nearly $99 million for its high school and middle school improvement project — around $15 million more than the low bid received about a year ago.
Superintendent Lisa Martin said on Monday, Sept. 18, that “no decision has been made” to accept or reject the bid, and discussions of the school division’s next steps are just beginning.
M.B. Kahn Construction, of Columbia, S.C., was the sole contractor to submit a bid. It was opened Sept. 14.
The receipt of only one bid was far short of expectations — and much more expensive than anticipated.
Northampton schools Chief Financial Officer Brook Thomas had anticipated a “100% competitive negotiation” and reported to county supervisors on Aug. 8 that four contractors had attended the mandatory pre-bid conference.
The high bid is another setback in Northampton’s plan to modernize its high school building, which also houses the county’s middle school.
When the project was advertised to contractors last summer, supervisors were willing to commit no more than $65 million.
Of the two bids received in August 2022, the lowest was $84 million, and the highest was about $85 million.
Northampton County and school officials have spent the last year looking for ways to cut costs.
Last month, supervisors had discussed possibly taking waste such as bricks and concrete blocks to the Northampton County landfill instead of hauling it across the Chesapeake Bay to a disposal site.
That was not a viable option, supervisors decided.
The brick and concrete waste will come from the demolition of the original Northampton High School structure that was built in 1954 and includes the present cafeteria and auditorium.
A structural engineering firm reported in 2007 that the 1954 building was in poor condition. At that time, the 1978 addition, which includes the current gym, was still in good condition but needed renovation.
Repairs were done as needed to ensure the school building was safe for students. County and school officials debated whether to renovate the high school or build a new one.
Several of them formed a high school revitalization committee in 2018 to work toward an agreement.
The committee members reached a compromise – demolition of the 1954 building, renovation of the 1978 addition, as well as new construction.
The design on which contractors bid includes a brand-new middle school wing, cafeteria, auditorium, and a separate gym for the middle school, among other improvements.