Franklin Hall bids more than planned

Rachel Abbey

Franklin Hall contract bids came in $1 to 2 million more than estimates, forcing the university to re-examine project costs. Kent State has 60 days from Jan. 10 to accept or reject the bids.

Franklin Hall will be the new home of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Construction was expected to be completed, and the building ready for move-in by Fall 2007.

This is unusual because the university normally accepts bids within a week, said Beth Ruffing, assistant director of capital design and construction.

“We usually come in pretty well within our budgets,” she said.

The project was already redesigned once, Ruffing said. The capital plan originally gave $15 million to the project, with $13 million for construction costs. The total budget was cut to about $13 million during the designing process. Architects and engineers made concessions to the plans, cutting a TV studio and leaving the televideo department in the Music and Speech building.

After paying outside and in-university designers, engineers and architects, the project was left with about $11.4 million to spend on construction, Ruffing said. Bids came in at the $13 million range.

“We redesigned,” she said. “We would have been on.”

The rising cost of materials is the base of the inflation, Ruffing said. Hurricane Katrina destabilized the economy and made prices harder to predict. Transportation for these materials is also higher because of rising oil costs.

Construction bids are made up of prime bids and alternates, Ruffing said. Prime bids are for parts of the project such as general construction, plumbing and electric.

“We try to make it – the prime bid – 90 percent of the money we have to spend,” she said.

Many prime bids came in above budget. For example, the general trades estimate was $6,583,314 according to eBlueprint’s Web site. Bids came in $7,692,000, $8,294,000, $7,943,000, $8,560,000 and $8,420,000.

Alternate bids are for the construction of things such as high-end computer labs and common areas, Ruffing said.

These are listed separately so the university can decide what it can afford, and not choose some of the options if necessary. The university doesn’t want to cut parts of the project just to lower prices because that would make the building useless, said David Creamer, vice president of administration.

This project will depend on getting the extra money, Ruffing said. The school can fund raise or get donors to pay for parts.

Jeff Fruit, director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said the school will continue to fund raise.

“Some of the money we raised could go into meeting that difference,” he said.

If a donor earmarks their gift, it has to be used for that purpose, Fruit said. Many of the gifts were given without a dedication and can be used to fill the gap.

Ohio state law requires the total accepted bid to be within 10 percent of the estimate, Ruffing said. The architect’s office is currently looking at bid combinations to make sure possible bids are within that range.

If there are no combinations to fit that range, the bids must be rejected, she said. The drawings would have to be redesigned and re-bid, setting the project back three to six months. It’s too early to tell if this will be necessary.

“It’s not yet at a point when I can say ‘x’ is on the table,” Fruit said.

Contact administration reporter Rachel Abbey at [email protected].