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Sawdust flies as schools expand

Rod Fivelstad was dressed in shorts and a polo shirt Wednesday, but what he really needed was a hard hat.

While his fellow teachers and students enjoy the next month and a half taking vacations in the break between school years, Fivelstad shuttles between a dusty patch of sand that separates a new two-story classroom building and an unfinished gymnasium.

By October, Fivelstad hopes to trade in his figurative hard hat for a party hat, because that’s when the $7 million expansion to Union Hill School is expected to be finished.



“Our highest priority is to get those classrooms built,” Fivelstad said, pointing to the largest expansion for the school in nearly a decade. “This carries our building needs far out into the future.”

It’s summer, and that means prime building season for school districts throughout western Nevada County. In addition to Union Hill’s expansion, the bulldozers, saws and hammers are buzzing at Nevada Union High School, and at Lyman Gilmore Middle School, among other places.




One site contractors may not be visiting will be Bear River High School, where the proposed construction of a pool and performing arts center is on hold while number-crunchers at the Nevada Joint Union High School District decide how to pay for a project that has exceeded budget estimates.

While some of the changes are cosmetic in nature – renovation of bathrooms and removal of asbestos at Lyman Gilmore Middle School, for example – there are other, more-noticeable remodels coming this fall.

Modernization of Nevada Union High School’s E wing is ongoing, which would replace some of the portables on campus with permanent classrooms. The project is expected to continue into the school year, district officials said.

Money for the Union Hill project, which began in March 2003, is coming from voter-approved state Proposition 47, which allocated $13 billion in school construction bonds.

Measure A, a $15 million bond passed by voters in the Nevada Joint Union High School district in 2002, is paying for the modernization at Nevada Union, and is supposed to pay for the proposed improvements to Bear River High School.

Julie Hopkins, assistant superintendent for business services at the high school district, said the district could tap into developer fees, money paid to the district by builders as compensation for growth, to cover the $1.2 million gap in Bear River’s projected budget of $5.5 million for the pool and performing arts center and the $6.3 million bid made by the Lincoln-based Aberdeen Burris construction firm.

Any decision to use developer fees or reduce the scope of the project to align it more closely with the budget would have to be made by the district Board of Trustees at their July 21 meeting, Hopkins said.

The increase in the price of steel, workers’ compensation and a tight bidding market – there were just three bidders for the project – all contribute to the high bid, she said.

“We could re-bid the project, but we don’t see any reason why prices would be coming down any time soon.”


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