Brewer school construction on schedule

Posted July 22, 2009, at 8:21 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — The new pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade school, now officially the Brewer Elementary/Middle School Campus, is visibly taking shape on Parkway South.

Steel framing is up for about half of the 156,000-square-foot school, said Karl Ward, president and CEO for Nickerson & O’Day, the construction company hired to build the estimated $39.5 million school.

“We’re building the first two wings of the school,” he said while walking through the construction site on Wednesday.

The new school, which will have separate wings for the different age groups with shared areas in the middle of the building for such things as the cafeteria and media center or library, will have 71 classrooms, house 1,050 students and include a $2.6 million performing arts center.

Once complete, the new two-story school will be the largest elementary-middle school in the state, Ward said, adding that even with the consistently rainy weather in recent months, the scheduled completion date is still set for early June 2011.

“We only lost a couple of days in the schedule” because of the rain, he said. “We’re off to a good start.”

All of the walls should be up by Thanksgiving so the building can be enclosed to allow work to continue throughout the winter, said Fred Townsend, project supervisor and 36-year veteran Nickerson & O’Day employee.

The new combined elementary-middle school will replace four aging elementary schools and Brewer Middle School, all built between 1926 and 1962.

Because the Department of Education decided last fall to delay construction bonds for the new school by six months, local school leaders decided to secure interim financing to start the work this spring and avoid delays, Superintendent Daniel Lee said.

“We ended up doing the project in two phases to try and keep this thing on time,” he said.

The decision was a good one, Ward said. The original estimate to build the school was around $33 million, and the actual bid for the project came in at around $27 million, a savings of about $6 million, he said.

“Construction costs are at an all-time low,” Ward said. “This is, provided you have access to the funding, a great time to build.”

The project also is an economic shot to the arm for area businesses and subcontractors, he said.

“Over 90 percent of the subcontractors are from Maine,” Ward said. “Anytime we can buy in Maine, anytime we can buy in Bangor and Brewer area, we do.”

It’s estimated that between 700 and 900 skilled laborers will work on the project over the next two years. Approximately 30 to 35 are working on-site right now, but that number will increase to up to 100 once the walls are enclosed, Townsend said.

“The drywallers will be here for over one year,” Ward said.

While workers put up walls on Wednesday, heavy equipment operators could be seen moving earth at the adjacent new eight-lane track and soccer field that is big enough to host state-level track meets, Lee said.

“It’s 10 times better than what they had,” he said. “I think it will be great. Plus, the public can come use this to walk on.”

The new school campus will have 293 parking spots, which should be large enough to handle crowds associated with the track and the locally funded performance arts center.

The entire project, which was created by WBRC Architects-Engineers of Bangor, is designed under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system, architect Dave Witham said.

“This is a green building,” he said.

The LEED program promotes five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality, said Ward, who just attained his LEED certification.

“It’s the way of the future. We think it’s the way it should be done,” he said. “It’s a healthy, clean building.”

To allow locals to keep an eye on the project, a Web camera will be installed in the next week or so. Access to the webcam will be available through the school department’s Web site, brewerme.org.

nricker@bangordailynews.net

990-8190

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