Pinelands Regional School District Awards Contracts for School Construction

Two Companies Will Earn Over $30 Million
Jun 06, 2018

At its Monday evening meeting on June 4, the Pinelands Regional Board of Education unanimously awarded contracts to two firms that will conduct the bulk of the work on the $53.6 million worth of referendum projects that were approved by voters in January 2017.

Paul Otto Building Co. of Cranford was the winning bidder for the masonry restoration and exterior window and door replacement project at the district’s high school building. The company’s base bid of $11,548,000 was the second lowest of five bids, but the low bidder, R. Wilkinson & Sons of Absecon, which had submitted a bid of $10,297,413, was found non-responsive due to its unilateral mistake in completing its bid proposal form and subsequently voluntarily withdrew its bid. Paul Otto’s bid was $90,687 lower than the third lowest responsive bidder, D.A. Nolt of Berlin.

Newport Construction of Pennsauken was the winning – and lowest – bidder among four companies competing for a project merely described as “additions and renovations to Pinelands Regional High School and Junior High School.” Newport’s base bid was $19,887,000, which was $467,000 lower than its nearest competitor, Hessert Construction of Marlton.

The contracts were awarded after the board heard from representatives of its construction management firm, Epic Construction Management. Bill Costello and Brian Moore told the board that the bids on the masonry project had come in higher than expected. But, they added, the other bid had come in lower than expected, so it all basically evened out in the end.

The Epic representatives also said their company had worked with Paul Otto Building Co. several years ago on a large masonry project and had been impressed with its work. After meeting with district representatives and the projects’ architect, Brooks Garrison, everybody was confident the company could handle what could become a complicated project; complicated because it is uncertain what will be discovered once the high school’s crumbling brick façade is removed.

The companies may have been celebrating being awarded the contracts. But they’re also probably girding their loins in preparation for the actual work because, as Costello told the board, “I’ve gotta tell you, it’s an extremely aggressive schedule.”

Both companies are scheduled to start work on June 25. But most work at the junior high school building will have to end on Aug. 19 and not be continued until June 2019. Considering the high school building will be closed for the entirety of the 2018-19 school year and much of its student population moved to the junior high building, it is essential the junior high be ready to open on time in September of this year.

Newport Construction, said Costello, will concentrate on working on the junior high’s science wing roof and its second-floor restrooms this summer. Some work, “mainly on doors,” will continue into the school year at the junior high building, but it will be done at night and “cause no disruption.”

All work at the junior high school must be done by August 2019, according to a hard end date. Costello said his company had looked into a schedule with extra time, but that would have cost extra money.

“Why would we pay extra money for a later end?” Costello asked.

As far as the high school building is concerned, it is set to reopen in time for the 2019-20 school year. But as stated before, who knows what will be found when the building’s old brick façade is removed. The unexpected discovery of asbestos in part of the high school roof as it was being replaced last summer ended up closing the high school for months, necessitating all of the district’s students being on split sessions at the junior high during that time period.

Meanwhile, the installation of the temporary classroom units (otherwise known as trailers) at the junior high school that will help alleviate the influx of students from the high school this school year without the necessity of split sessions will wait until the end of the current school year. That project’s completion date, said Costello, will be Aug. 15.

New Superintendent

Hits Ground Running

Melissa McCooley, the district’s new superintendent of schools thanks to a shared-services agreement with her other employer, the Little Egg Harbor School District, reported that she had been very busy on her first two days on the job.

She had attended a construction update meeting and had meet-and-greets with all but two of the district’s nine board members (the other two members have scheduled meetings).

McCooley had already talked with representatives of Ocean County College and Stockton University about potential partnership projects. She also announced the planned formation of a parent advisory board that will consist of parents of students in both the Little Egg Harbor and Pinelands Regional districts. The first meeting, McCooley said, will be on Tuesday, June 20, at 1 p.m. at the Pinelands Regional district board office. She did ask parents to RSVP for that first meeting, called “Sit With the Supe,” by emailing Madge Rosenberg at

“Anyone is welcome to attend,” said McCooley.

Board members welcomed McCooley aboard. But some, especially board President Susan M. Ernst, also spent time praising Cheryl Stevenson, who had served as the acting superintendent of schools since former interim superintendent Maryann Banks unexpectedly resigned in December 2017.

Ernst said that during the confusion that surrounded the closing of the high school building, Stevenson spent much time answering emails from the public, responding to every one she received. She made every construction meeting, of which there were many, and conducted staff meetings, all while continuing to serve in her regular, time-consuming job of executive director of curriculum and instruction.

“She held this district together,” said Ernst.

— Rick Mellerup

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