Reed School: Builds Up Not Out To Provide More Parking

Comments at Arlington School Board Meeting on July 17, 2018.

While I support a new neighborhood elementary school at the Reed site, I am concerned about both the design and the cost. The four story structure outlined in the final schematic design appears to blend in well with its surroundings and preserves open space.

However it requires demolishing the existing school, which is less than ten years old. It will also force 9 and 10 year olds to march up three flights of stairs several times a day.

Westover residents were told that the school had to be built up rather than out to preserve green space. But inspection of the design reveals the real reason for building up—namely to expand parking space.

While this scheme furthers APS’ commitment to a “more car diet,” it will impose a physical hardship on the students and drive up costs.

At $55 million Reed ES is already $6 million over the $49 million budgeted in the 2017-26 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).

Residents were told that the cost of demolishing the existing structure is the culprit, and a whole slew of cost containment measures have been proposed.

Perhaps a better place to look for cost savings is in the contract vehicle itself. Under recently adopted purchasing guidelines, APS can replace competitive sealed bids for major construction projects with “Competitive Negotiation” on a “Construction Management at Risk (CMR)” basis.

Under CMR two or more pre-selected contractors are invited to negotiate pricing with APS. CMR is supposed to contain costs by putting the onus for cost overruns on the builder. But due to the risk assumed by the winning bidder, there is little incentive to negotiate prices down, and APS pays a premium to avoid the risk of cost overruns that may not materialize. This does not appear to be a cost effective way to build schools.