BY STEFANIE JACKSON, Eastern Shore Post —
Northampton County received a bid of $1.9 million to expand the Bayview convenience center, a project that has a budget of $700,000.
“I think we do need to start looking at some fundamentals … recognizing that everything we’re going to try and do is going to be more expensive,” County Administrator Charlie Kolakowski told the board of supervisors on Tuesday, Sept. 26.
His announcement followed another “astronomical” bid Northampton received — nearly $99 million for renovations and new construction at its middle and high school campus.
Northampton supervisors had consented to spend a maximum of $65 million on that project before it went out to bid in 2022.
The low bid last year was $84 million, prompting the county to try again this year.
But contractor bids continue to rise, not fall.
Kolakowski said Northampton must be more “aggressive” about seeking competitive bids.
The convenience center and high school project each received one bid.
“I think that’s causing some of the prices to escalate, also,” Kolakowski said.
He also noted that some areas of Hampton Roads are getting better offers for school construction projects — around $340 or $350 per square foot.
The sole bid for the Northampton High School projects equated to $550 per square foot.
He recommended saving money by completing future Northampton County projects in phases, starting with the bare necessities.
“Nice … is way down the list,” he said.
Kolakowski also recommended the county take better advantage of local talent like its director of public works, Chris Thomas, who is a professional engineer.
Supervisors John Coker, Betsy Mapp, and Oliver Bennett all voiced approval for the idea of breaking large projects into smaller pieces to be completed by subcontractors with local oversight.
They also discussed ways to reduce the cost of the high school project.
Kolakowski said the contractor that bid on the high school project would consider ways to reduce costs, but it’s a “long shot.”
Mapp said the project should be redesigned, noting that modifications made over the last year were mostly “cosmetic.”
Coker was concerned that if the high school project is delayed by redesign, Northampton might not receive the grant it was awarded — $16.8 million from Virginia’s new School Construction Assistance Program.
Bennett, who is also a Northampton High School teacher, favored scaling back the project.
“Sometimes … you want a Rolls Royce, but a Cadillac will be fine,” he said.
Bennett added, “We’ve got to look at what we can actually afford.”