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District Hires Architect for New Auditorium

Construction could be complete by fall of 2013.

Construction on the is slated to begin Aug. 27 with completion by Aug. 1 of 2013.

Thursday, the Mehlville school board unanimously approved a contract for Dickinson Hussman Architects (DHA) to provide design and consulting services for the new auditorium. Their fee will be $427,290, which is 10 percent of the building and site costs.

The fee is incorporated into the $5.8 million total cost of the auditorium and includes civil, structural and mechanical engineering; a building code consultant as well as architectural design.

Superintendent Eric Knost said he and DHA have been working on the contract for the last month and the district’s attorneys have approved it.

“To really get down to pricing this thing out, we’ve got to move forward with the engineering work and through the guidance of the architects to get us to the next step,” Knost said.

Board member Mark Stoner shared his concern about the safety of the construction site, since work will be done during the school year with football games and other activities.

“Safety is absolutely No. 1 on any construction site, I assure you that,” said Dwight Dickinson of DHA. “Once we get to that point where a contractor has been hired and construction starts, that’s going to be the first thing we do is to sit down and go through the entire safety package.”

Knost recommended DHA because of their history with the district and the initial estimates they have done on the auditorium.

“We’ve been utilizing DHA with no out-of-pocket expenses to get us to this point,” he said. “They’re very familiar with this facility; they’re familiar with the Mehlville School District.”

DHA was also the architectural firm for the projects done under Proposition P, a bond issue that was passed in Nov. 2000 to build and improve the district’s facilities.

Board member Rich Franz asked about a cost overrun stipulation for the auditorium, a concern for him after Proposition P went over budget by more than $20 million.  

“I think there may be some concerns in the community, if there were cost overruns with a project that you were involved with, we want to be sure, we want some type of guarantee that that’s not going to be an issue on this project,” he said.

Dickinson and Knost said the difference between the projects is that the firm had no control over the Proposition P construction. The district hired a separate construction manager to oversee those building projects, while DHA worked as the architectural firm.

With the new auditorium, DHA will act as the construction manager.

“It’s our responsibility to work the budget to make sure that we bring the budget in where it should be,” Dickinson said. “When a construction manager is responsible, they control the budget and they control the schedule… Contractually, we are responsible for working with the district to maintain that budget.”

Knost said the auditorium construction has a different process than Prop P did; the timeline calls for a cost estimate after each phase of the project with much more oversight.

Dickinson said that over the last two years, construction costs were up to 15-20 percent lower in some projects because of the economy.

The next step will be fine-tuning the design and cost estimates.

“I just can’t thank the community enough for being so supportive and the board for their forward-thinking,” Knost said. “I thought (Thursday’s) meeting represented the due diligence of this collective board, asking the right questions and making the right decisions.”

, the school board unanimously approved the plan for a new auditorium at  with a price cap of $6 million.

The 22,700 square-foot auditorium will seat 525 people and cost approximately $5.8 million. It would house both high schools’ drama programs, as well as host band and choir performances for district schools.

The district will pay for the auditorium through refunded savings from Certificates of Participation (COPs), which are already built into the budget. Chief Financial Officer Noel Knobloch said the district would earn $6 million over 7 years.

Knost said he would use the leftover funds from the auditorium for repairs on the Witzel Learning Center. 

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