Seymour Community School Corp.’s efforts to create an agriculture-science research farm and education center have been delayed.
School board members rejected Tuesday the one bid submitted for the project because it was more than the $2 million budget.
Hal Kovert with Kovert Hawkins Architects of Jeffersonville said he was disappointed only one contractor, T&G Inc. of Bedford, bid on the work and that the bid was $1 million more than he expected.
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“In the first few weeks we had 12 contractors that were interested in the project,” Kovert said. But T&G was the sole bidder at $3.34 million.
T&G, which has completed several building additions for Seymour Schools during the past few years and is currently working at Cortland and Margaret R. Brown elementary schools, also requested to have a full year to complete the ag facility.
Originally, construction was to begin in July and be completed by the end of this year, but Kovert said the deadline would need to be extended to Aug. 1, 2017.
“The schedule was too tight,” Kovert said of why other contractors decided not to bid on the project. “Currently, the construction market is doing well, and most of the folks that were interested in this have a lot of work going right this minute, and they said there was no way they could meet the schedule.”
Kovert said one of the reasons T&G’s bid was higher than the available budget was because the company was having trouble getting subcontractors and vendors on board because of the proposed timeline.
But he also said there are some areas of the project that need to be refined within the design and adjustments that need to be made to lower the cost.
A couple of things he said could be eliminated or changed. They include the use of an acoustical steel deck to help control noise levels in the planned large demonstration space and a different type of temperature control system.
Trustee John Kelley said he didn’t want the spend anymore money on the facility.
“I don’t want this to be a Cadillac. It is a place of learning and needs to come in under budget,” he said.
Kovert recommended the board allow him to work with the school’s ag farm committee to revise the project specifications and timeline in order to rebid the work again next month at no additional expense to the school corporation.
He hopes to have more than one bidder the second time around, he said.
“I think we can rebid the project probably in late July with some refinements … and come back at the August meeting with a successful bid,” he said. “We’re going to take care of what we need to do to get this project back in budget. The only thing we’re losing is a little bit of time.”
The facility has the potential to put Seymour at the forefront statewide of preparing and training students for careers in the agriculture industry, school officials said.
Although the number of farmers in Jackson County is dwindling, the number of jobs available in ag-related fields, including ag-science, business, technology and mechanics, is on the rise, and students with an education and training in agriculture are in high demand.
The project is being funded through the corporation’s capital projects fund. No money will have to be borrowed, officials said.
Phase I includes a 12,000-square-foot, one-story, pole-barn style building that will house a large machinery and equipment training and shop area, a food science lab with full working kitchen to implement farm-to-table curriculum, a metals lab with welding booths, a classroom for animal science, restrooms, an office, storage and a large parking area.
A second phase, if approved, would add a greenhouse and aquaculture lab, a lecture/presentation hall and additional labs and classrooms.
The building will be located on a five-acre site along Fourth and F avenues in Freeman Field.
The new facility will allow Seymour to offer advanced courses in food science, plants and soils and landscape management along with courses in agriculture power, structure and technology and sustainable energy alternatives. Other courses that could be offered include diesel service technology, welding technology and precision machining.
The farm also would be used for internships, FFA functions, field trips and to host elementary school Ag Days.
But local schools wouldn’t be the only ones to use and benefit from the facility.
Besides increasing student opportunities, the farm has the potential to become a magnet facility for agribusiness industries in Seymour and Jackson County, such as Jackson-Jennings Co-op, Kova Fertilizer, Jacobi Sales, The Andersons and Rose Acre Farms.
Jackson County farmers would be able to use the site throughout the year to learn about new technologies and innovations through ag software and technology demonstrations, equipment/machinery demonstrations, field days, farm safety sessions, ag management and financial strategy meetings and adult education courses and technical certifications.
Superintendent Rob Hooker said the school farm could be a game changer in increasing vocational and career training in the county and even attracting agribusiness to the area.