Bidding dispute leads to school construction delay

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A bidding dispute has halted plans to built a new, $23 million school in northwest Knox County.

The Knox County Commission was set to move it onto next week’s meeting during a work session Monday night.

Instead, the item was dropped from the agenda and no commissioners mentioned it during the work session. 

Hard Knox Wire learned of the bidding dispute prior to the meeting and requested information about it from Matt Myers, Knox County’s director of procurement.

“There has been a protest filed and that process must run its course,”  Myers told Hard Knox Wire on Monday. “That’s all I can say at this time.”

It was unclear how long the dispute could hold up the project or how the protest will be resolved.

The construction deal was approved last week by the Knox County Schools Board of Education.

The new school, which is supposed to be built on Leslie Graham Lane in the Solway area, is slated to open in time for the fall semester of 2022. 

Officials hope to do more soon than merely building a new campus in Solway. They hope to replace  Adrian Burnett Elementary School and Lonsdale Elementary School.

The contract for the planned school in Solway was to go to Tricon Construction Inc., a company based out of Maryland, for the amount of $23,050,000.

Documents show that a total of eight construction firms initially bid on the project Feb. 24.

Knoxville-based Lewis Group Architects (LGA) who is designing the school, helped lead up the bidding process.

In a letter dated Feb. 26, Douglas Shover, vice president and program manager for LGA, wrote that after tabulating the bids it was found that Tricon Construction was the winner with a  $23,050,000 proposal.

“Per the attached bid calculation, TriCon, Inc.’s base bid is the lowest of the bids,” Shover wrote. “And Alternate 1 is also the lowest of the bids.”

School officials said two weeks ago during a School Board work session that they had asked bids to be made that included alternates. The alternates included adding eight additional classrooms, putting the total capacity of the school at more than 1,000 students.

The original estimate for the northwest school, which remains unnamed, was around $19 million. The alternate plans, the skyrocketing cost of building material, and changed building codes led to  the $4 million-plus price increase.

The winning bidder for the Adrian Burnett project was Knoxville-based Merit Construction Inc.

The School Board has approved that project to go forward pending County Commission’s approval of a $19.9 million contract with the company.

Contact Cliff Hightower at cliffhightower@hardknoxwire.com.

Published March 23, 2021.

Also read: https://hardknoxwire.com/three-knox-county-schools-on-the-verge-of-construction/