Recession lowers school construction costs

Fayette County Public Schools are reaping the benefits of Lexington's sliding construction market.

The city school board awarded contracts for renovations of two Lexington elementary schools Monday night based on bids that came in about $3.6 million below estimates made last fall.

Construction companies are trimming their bids in hopes of staying busy during tough economic times, said Mary Wright, the county schools' chief operating officer.

"For a while, we went through a period of pretty rapidly increasing construction costs, about an 8 percent annual increase," Wright said. "That was pretty frustrating. Now that we have a recession and not a lot of building is going on, costs seem to be going the other way."

Fayette board members awarded a contract to Lexington's D.W. Wilburn Inc. for renovation of Cassidy Elementary School for a total cost of just over $11 million. Last October, school officials had estimated the cost would be about $13.8 million.

A contract for renovation of Russell Cave Elementary School went to Congleton-Hacker Co. of Lexington for a total cost of $6.1 million, compared with a September 2008 project estimate of $6.9 million.

The school system received seven bids on the Cassidy renovation and 12 bids on the Russell Cave project. The level of interest from bidders is another indication that construction companies are looking for work in lean times, she said.

Renovation work at Cassidy and Russell Cave should get under way in the next few weeks, school officials said.

The two schools are among five scheduled for renovation this year. The others are Arlington Elementary and Leestown and Bryan Station middle schools.

Renovation contracts on Arlington, Leestown and Bryan Station have not been awarded yet, although a preliminary $88,000 demolition project already has begun at Arlington.