Eastside Elementary School

Work continues at the former Eastside Elementary School site in Coos Bay.

COOS BAY — Increased construction costs are changing the Coos Bay BEST Bond’s priorities.

Those costs mean that the bond can no longer cover everything on the list of building projects, including some upgrades for Millicoma and Sunset schools.

In 2015 when the Coos Bay School District first estimated what it would cost to upgrade Millicoma, Sunset, and Madison schools, as well as build a brand new elementary and middle school, that number came out at $59.9 million and was approved by voters in 2017. That number allowed for some inflation of up to 20 percent.

For the new Eastside School, the increase for construction inflation and contingency was closer to 45 percent.

“This was caused by an approximate construction inflation increase of six percent,” said district Superintendent Bryan Trendell. “We have checked around and confirmed that this is the case all around the state with construction costs. This is a reflection of the shear amount of school construction going on around Oregon … We planned and budgeted for an increase in the cost of construction but the amount of increase in the last year has been astronomical.”

As a result, the district’s construction budget for the BEST Bond projects changed.

“We had to sit down and take a look at our priorities for what we want to do,” Trendell said. “The two new buildings are priority number one and to do them right. Priority number two is to do a nice job on the renovation on Madison.”

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But for Sunset and Millicoma schools, the budget had to be reduced in order to accomplish priority number one. Trendell hopes that projects like installing a new HVAC, roof and paint can eventually be budgeted for in the district’s capital projects over the next few years and then chip away at those over time to get the other schools upgraded.

“The Millicoma scope of work still includes a security vestibule in the front entryway,” Trendell said. “We will have a new front drop off area and a new ADA ramp on the southeast corner of the building where there is an exit with stairs.”

For Sunset School, security improvements were also left in the budget. In addition, the district plans on applying for a seismic grant for Madison Elementary to help at that location.

“We do still need to sell the $20 million of the bonds,” Trendell said, referring to the remaining BEST Bond money. “Last time when we sold the first $40 million, we gained $6 million because of the financial shape our district has been in. We were a good investment and are still a good investment, so when we sell those we could gain some funding.”

Trendell emphasized that the work on Millicoma and Sunset schools is not eliminated, but postponed to ensure there are resources to build the two new buildings and make the necessary upgrades at Madison Elementary.

“Any time you’re building something, costs don’t ever seem to go down,” he said. “We build contingencies into the projects, but having a big jump and who knows what the market will do in the next year or two. The main point is we will get those two buildings done the right way. We want to make sure our community gets the most out of the money from this bond levy.”

Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.