Ventilation project may be delayed

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SHAFTSBURY — Despite the Shaftsbury School Board's efforts, circumstances beyond their control could now see the school's ventilation project delayed.

Only two contractors are considering bidding on the project, due to busy schedules this summer.

The board's consultant, John F. Penney Consulting Services, reached out to five or six potential contractors for the project, said Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union business manager Renee Gordon. They also put an ad in the Bennington Banner seeking interested contractors. There was a mandatory walk-through of the building on Monday, which Gordon said only two contractors, Bennington Cooling and Heating and Hayden Plumbing and Heating of Bennington, attended.

"Through that, it came out that they need a little bit more time to bid it. John Penney was anticipating, or hoping, that we would have bids back this Friday, and they said they needed more time," said Gordon, "They think they want to come back and do a little bit more exploration on site before they put their bids together. But both are busy this summer, so we'll just have to wait and see where the bids come in. Because they're not hungry for work, we might see an uptick in what they're actually pricing it out at. That is complete speculation at this point, but knowing that they're busy, that tends to be how that pricing goes."

The Shaftsbury School Board is not the first board to run into this problem. Earlier this month, the Arlington Select Board needed to postpone a water project after only one contractor was interested, and placed a bid much higher than what was anticipated, due to an already busy summer schedule.

"They both said, 'We're busy right now, we'll look into it, and if we feel like we can do it we'll put a bid in,'" said Principal Jeff Johnson, who accompanied them on the walk-through, "Everybody's pretty busy this time of year, according to them." Johnson said that two other contractors had responded to Penney saying that they were already booked and wouldn't be able to bid for the contract.

The due date for bids is next Thursday, June 22. If the board does receive any bids, they will hold a meeting as soon as possible afterward to review the bids. If no bids are received, Gordon said that they could put the project out to bid again in the winter. "I know that's not the board's wish, I know you would like to get it done this summer," Gordon told the board on Wednesday, "but if we just don't have the manpower, the interest from the contractors to do it, at least that money has been designated, it will be set aside, and you can use it in the future."

The board has been aware of heightened carbon dioxide levels in certain parts of the building since last June. In March, voters approved a ballot article that allowed the board to bond up to $185,000 to address the issue. While the board has said the levels are not dangerous to students, the school has left windows open during the day in affected parts of the building to mitigate the problem.

Reach staff writer Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122 or @DerekCarsonBB

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