Bridgehampton School Forum Planned on New Construction Costs

The Bridgehampton School. Michael Heller photo

After rejecting a second set of proposals submitted by builders bidding on a major construction project at the Bridgehampton School — and setting a date for a referendum to secure an additional $4.7 million to fund the project — Bridgehampton School officials have announced a community forum to explain complications that have emerged, making the renovation and expansion of the Montauk Highway school more expensive.

On September 6 at 6 p.m. in the school gym, school officials and construction professionals will address the need for the additional funding, which Superintendent Robert Hauser said arose from costs that inflated during the lengthy New York State Education Department project approval process.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Mr. Hauser addressed an issue that arose during a special school board meeting held on August 7: the apparent exclusion of the new library from the most recent published request for proposals from builders interested in working with the school district. He said there had been an initial conversation around “carving out” the library from the plans so it could be classified as an “alternate” piece to be bid on separately by contractors — not scrapping it from the plans altogether. However, confusion arose after the second bid was published without the library piece.

“It’s kind of a moot point because the bids came in too high again, and they were rejected,” Mr. Hauser said. “The project right now is back right where it started off, with no changes whatsoever.”

School Board President Ronnie White said Monday there had been no negligence or wrongdoing. He said the confusion started with a conversation experimenting with numbers for what could be adjusted in the plans to stay within the original $24.7 million approved by the community in December 2016. The district promised its taxpayers a 35,440-square-foot addition that more than doubles the existing building size, with significant renovation to the existing spaces. The new library is to be accompanied by a new gym, locker rooms, fitness room, cafeteria, music room and more.

“Logistically, we don’t have the ability to change the scope of the project that significantly without having to go back to the community,” he said. “With taking out the library, which was a pretty big to-do in the scope of things, we wanted to bid on that separately. It wasn’t like it was done unauthorized — we just wanted to confirm the numbers. As a board, we came up with the realization that it wouldn’t be appropriate or practical to take out the library.”

The school’s architect, Port Jefferson-based John A. Grillo, could not be reached for comment.

The school board will meet again on August 20 at 5 p.m. to continue discussing the plans. The district has set a vote on Thursday, September 13, to ask taxpayers for an additional $4.74 million to bridge the gap in funding. The referendum will be held on the same day as the New York State primary for state legislature offices, though no local primary races are anticipated.

“The crux of the whole thing right now is the construction market and prices per square foot are significantly higher than what we began with,” Mr. Hauser said. “If that’s approved, then there will be sufficient funds to do the entire project as the voters originally approved. Right now, there are no plans to cut anything out of the original project.”