The ever-changing material availability and costs moved the Heart of the Lakes Elementary kitchen remodel project to summer 2022.

“You could say the construction world’s a little bit rocky right now,” as Chad Bormann of BHH Partners shared with Perham school board members on May 19. “Material shortages have been tough, getting contractors to bid has been tough.”

With two submitted bids, board members rejected the bids after learning the project could not be completed by the start of the 2021-22 school year. The estimated cost was originally $650,000. The increased costs brought in bids at about $1.2 million. The project costs for next year are unknown. The school plans to use federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds for the project.

The material costs change weekly with differences of 20-40%, as Bormann said. The project is entirely metal and block.

Though space in the elementary kitchen is tight, and has been for years, the kitchen is still workable for another year and will keep kitchen staffs and students from being disrupted at two schools, as business manager Kristi Werner and elementary principal Liz Johnson said.

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If the project remained in 2021, the earliest start date would have been July 1. The project was planned to start on May 26, which is why the school year finished early. The calendar for the 2021-22 school year will not change due to the project.

Based on material shortages, the timeline for finishing the project would have been mid-November or simply unknown, as Hammers Construction and Baratto Brothers said in their bids. The elementary kitchen staff would have needed to prepare meals at the middle or high school for two to three months with this option. The elementary staff serve approximately 1,000 breakfasts and lunches daily, according to Werner.

BHH is also working with the state food and beverage, building and plumbing departments, which have to approve the remodel plans. Only the food and beverage department has approved the plan with the remaining departments stuck in a backlog of four to five weeks, as Bormann said.

“Would you recommend that we really start it, or would we be better off having a working kitchen for another year?” asked Mike Hamann, school board member.

Bormann and school facilities director Russ Winkels recommended bids go out early, between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, for contractors to have the space in their schedule. Superintendent Mitch Anderson said several other facilities projects could be evaluated this summer, which could help interest more contractors to place a bid.

Other items discussed by the board:

  • Approved the hiring of Kyle Haberman (Prairie Winds Middle School social studies teacher).

  • The next school board meeting is June 9 at 5 p.m. in the high school media center.