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AHS press box on hold after high bids received.

Byline: Ellie Oleson

AUBURN - On the third try, four bids were received from contractors interested in building the Auburn High School press box, but the bids were double what was expected, leaving the project in limbo.

The first time the press box went out to bid, no bids were received. The second time, only one incomplete bid came in.

Of the four bids received this time, the lowest bid opened Aug. 15 was $138,100 from Quality Contracting Inc. of Worcester. The highest bid was nearly $200,000.

The Local Channel Committee, which has been working with the School Department to fund the project, had hoped the low bid would be far lower.

Committee member Joseph M. Hamel said, "I was surprised. This is far more than we expected for a glorified shed."

His committee had voted to appropriate $40,000 for the project, then upped that to $70,000 when costs increased. So far, $42,000 has been spent to fund the design, concrete pad, steel beams and other necessities not included in the bid price.

Another $27,000 is available from AHS alumni donations, but this still leaves a gap of more than $80,000 to meet the lowest bid price.

Mr. Hamel said, "These bids are way out of line. We all want to do the same thing. The question is: How we can do it? It takes $150 per square foot to build a house. They are asking for $578 per square foot to build a press box."

Committee member Wil J. Dufour said the committee receives as much as $200,000 per year in fees from Charter Communications customers, and wants to help, but has other plans for most of the funds.

Mr. Hamel said, "We can't cut what we have already allocated for studio cameras, equipment and upgrades."

William R. Garneau, athletic director, said the press box would house the announcer, timekeeper, scorers, assistant coaches, sound equipment and television cameras.

Mr. Hamel said the press box would make live broadcasts possible for games, graduation ceremonies or other events on the field.

"We could do a three- or four-camera shoot, like an NFL game, except the players are smaller."

Mr. Dufour said, "The existence of a press box makes it possible to offer the use of the field for tournaments for revenue enhancement."

Maryellen Brunelle, superintendent of schools, thanked the committee for its generous support of the project, which she said, "would be a great thing for our students and generations to come."

The cable committee met within hours of last week's bid opening and decided to put the project on hold to give members a chance "to put things together," Mr. Hamel said.

The School Committee, which had planned to meet last week to discuss funding, postponed that meeting.

Mr. Hamel said, "I know it looks bad, but a press box will happen. The kids deserve it. Somehow, it will happen."
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 24, 2012
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