Price tag for high school is typical

In his April 25 letter, Jerry Venera asks a good question: why will our new high school cost $109.9 million when Ellensburg built a similar school for $32 million?

The Ellensburg project was not a completely new building. The library, a gym and one classroom building were re-used from their old school - and the site was already developed. But the biggest reason is inflation. Between second-quarter 2003 (when the bid was awarded) and fourth-quarter 2006, the cost of "nonresidential structures" across the nation rose 35.4 percent (U.S. Deptment of Commerce). Almost 12 percent per year came in 2005 and 2006.

Regionally, a continuing boom in commercial construction plus the 2010 Vancouver Olympics makes it difficult for school bids to compete. In 2003, the average high-school construction bid was about $175 per square foot (State of Washington OSPI). The most recent high-school bid in our state (Granite Falls High School, bid August 2006) was $260 per square foot.

This $260-per-square-foot bid for a "typical" high school became the Facilities Task Force's baseline for future cost estimates. Let's do the math:

* $260 per square foot x three more years of 12 percent inflation (36 percent) = $353 per square foot in August 2009 when the bid will be awarded.

* $353 per square foot x 225,000 square feet = $79.4 million materials and labor "hard" costs

* Add industry-standard 30 percent for "soft costs" (design, fees, permits, sales tax, furniture, fixtures, equipment) = $103.2 million

* Add heating, cooling and athletic field costs and you have $109.9 million - the estimated cost of our new high school.

A $100 million-plus high school is the reality we are faced with. It will only get more expensive with time. Please remember to vote "YES" on May 15.

Jim Reitz

Facilities Task Force member

North Bend

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