AUBURN — Concerns about the possibility of inflated construction costs in the Edward Little High School building project were addressed last week in a report to the School Committee.

Chairwoman Karen Mathieu said the building committee had heard from architect Mark Lee of Harriman Associates about the differences between renovation projects in Portland and the new school in Auburn.

The cost of school building projects in Portland has ballooned because of increases in construction expenses. A report two weeks ago revealed it would cost $21 million more than city voters approved three years ago to finish four elementary school renovation projects.

Costs escalated in the three years between bond approval and bidding, Mathieu said.

“In that time, construction costs rose significantly,” she said.

Auburn voters approved the new high school in June 2019. Requests for bids will go out this coming fall. Construction is set to begin in 2021 and the school is expected to open in 2023.

Another difference between the Portland and Auburn projects, according to Lee, is that in building a new school versus renovating, most costs are accounted for in the bond, Mathieu said.

When renovating, unexpected expenses are more likely to occur, she said, adding the contingency fund for any increase in cost for the EL project is above the state’s recommendation.

She said fiscal responsibility would be exercised.

“Once the (requests for proposals) go out,” Mathieu said, “we will have a better understanding (of the costs).”

Superintendent Katy Grondin noted the first step in the Edward Little project was to determine whether a new building would be more cost-effective than an addition or renovation.

“That was done right from the beginning,” Grondin said. “We went with new and the state supported it.”

The city is committed to raise up to $14.5 million through local taxes. The fundraising goal is to raise $3 million to $5 million, with any money raised going toward reducing the local share. The state will provide the remainder of the $122 million approved for the project. The new school will be built on the existing site.

Harriman Associates architects said earlier this year everything was on schedule. More meetings and further updates are planned.

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