MOUNT CARMEL — After bids coming in nearly $150,000 over the estimated budget, the District 348 Board of Education approved a bid for the Mount Carmel Junior-Senior High School locker room construction and HVAC projects in a special meeting Thursday.

Architecture & Design Group estimated $337,187 for the projects during a special board meeting May 1. Only two bids came back — both much higher than expected.

The board voted to approve the $487,000 bid from Johannes Construction of Centralia, Illinois, after reviewing all other options.

Kale Calvert of ADG discussed items the general contractor said could be removed to cut costs, including using lower-quality materials and foregoing the west locker rooms altogether. Skimping on the quality of materials and deleting some other manual labor would have saved the district $48,398, while not creating two locker rooms out of the current boy's locker room would have saved $92,235.

Yet, the board continued to express concern with both of those money-saving options.

"My concern is that I think that for the long range goals, if you use quality materials it is better for us than if we downgrade materials," said Janice Alka, school board member. "If you use low-quality materials just for savings then it's going to cost us more in the future."

Calvert agreed.

"That's what we call a life cycle cost — your upfront costs are less, but 5 or 10 years down the road you'll pay more for that cheaper quality now," he said. "With this kind of construction, quality is not something you want to sacrafice."

Eliminating the locker room work would also be problematic because without those two rooms, students would have to change for P.E. class in the "dungeons." The board said they would be wasting money to provide proper ventaliation and lockers for the "dungeon" rooms under the bleachers. Exisiting locker rooms are also another issue.

"Those locker rooms are in terrible shape — regardless of what we decide to do, we are going to have to spend money on the locker rooms regardless," said board member Kyle Peach. 

The board saw no other way around approving the lowest bid, even if it was much higher than anticipated.

"I hate to spend money as much as anybody does, but I hate to be doing one of two things — redoing stuff later and using inferior quality of stuff to get it done cheaper right now," said board President Tim Shular. "We got the 1 percent sales tax passed to do stuff like this and it has to be used for infastructure projects like this."

The construction projects are schedule to be completed by September.

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