Fort Smith school construction includes replacing century-old manhole

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,744 views 

Work continues on storm shelter at Southside High School.

A construction update presented to the Fort Smith Public Schools Board of Education at a study session Monday (May 11) shows major projects on track to be completed prior to the start of the 2021-22 school year.

Fort Smith voters approved a 5.558 millage increase for Fort Smith public schools in 2018. The new rate is expected to raise $120.822 million, $35 million of which will go toward district-wide safety improvements.

Other noteworthy items to be funded with the millage is a new $13.724 million Career and Technology Center featuring specialized lab spaces and classrooms for courses in healthcare, information technology, and manufacturing; additions and improvements to both Northside and Southside high schools which will include new freshman academies and new gyms at both; security renovations at Darby and Ramsey junior high schools; and closing in classrooms with secure walls and doors at Barling, Cook, Morrison, and Woods elementary schools.

The building pad for the new gym is completed at Northside High School and construction on the gym is underway, said George Watts with Hoar Program Management (HPM) of Dallas, the project manager hired by the school district. Watts showed the board photos of an old brick manhole at the school that will be replaced at 21st and B Street. That type of manhole hasn’t been used in over 100 years, Watts said.

Sewer system manhole estimated to be more than 100 years old.

Work is on schedule for construction at Northside to be completed by September 2021. At Southside, the structural steel is up on the new administrative center, workers are completing installation of the precast concrete panels of the new storm shelter, and the pre-engineered steel structure for the new gym is going up, Watts said. He said construction should be completed at Southside by the first of June 2021.

Construction is also on track for Ramsey Junior High, and preconstruction work is being completed for both Darby Junior High and the PEAK Innovation Center.

Plans are for requests for approval to be presented to the school board around June 22 for a general contractor for the portion of the career technology innovation center tied to a federal grant and a construction manager at risk for the remainder of the project, Watts said. It was announced in September that FSPS will receive a $1.4 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to help build the career technology center. FSPS earmarked $13.724 million of funds to be raised from the school millage increase for a career and technology center.

“The federal grant in the amount of $1.4 million, we are very pleased with that, very grateful, but it does comes with some very rigorous conditions and federal rules in terms of bidding the work and how you procure the work and how you contract for the work,” Watts said.

Groundbreaking of the PEAK Innovation Center is expected in early to mid-July, with construction being completed by mid-July 2021, Watts said. There is no date yet for a ceremonial groundbreaking due to restrictions in place do the COVID-19 pandemic, said FSPS Superintendent Dr. Doug Brubaker.

“This program has grown from a 50,000-square-feet one to (80,000, 90,000) maybe more by the time (it is done.) We’ve got some people who want to do some fundraising for us depending on how the bids come in. We took this modular approach to what other pieces we would be able to go ahead and put in. And it looks like we are on target for essentially the same close out, the turnover of the building to the district (as with the smaller project.) I’m encouraged by that, but there are an awful lot of moving parts to keep track of in the meantime …,” Brubaker said.

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