Legacy Construction Management, selected in February to oversee the $187.7 million, six-year project to repair and upgrade Montclair schools, submitted a project bid half the price of its competitors.

Bids from Legacy, Colliers Project Leaders, Epic Management Inc. and Gilbane Building Co. have not been publicly released by the district, but were obtained by Montclair Local through a records request. 

The low bid caused one school board member to express strong reservations about it, though school district officials maintained that they had done their research about the firm.

The Board of Education unanimously approved the contract with Legacy for $3,101,779 at its Feb. 1 meeting. At that meeting, board members said that bids from the three other firms were higher than Legacy’s, but they did not provide specific bid amounts. 

Colliers’ bid was $6,457,517; Epic’s totaled $6,769,276. Gilbane said in its bid that the company was unable to respond to the construction cost request due to limited information on project scheduling and phasing.

The district also required each bidding company to submit a per-month construction manager fee; the manager fee is included in the construction costs total.

Legacy’s manager fee totaled $20,150 per month; Gilbane’s was $32,500; Colliers’ was $27,500; Epic’s was $20,750.

The school board’s facilities committee questioned Legacy “extensively” about its bid because it was so much lower than the others, committee chair Eric Scherzer said at the Feb. 1 board meeting. Legacy assured the committee that the bid was sufficient for its work, and district administrators told the committee that they did their due diligence in researching the firm, Scherzer said. 

However, board member Kathryn Weller-Demming expressed reservations about the low bid.

“In my experience when you see a bid that is so wildly out of scope with the other bids, especially to be so dramatically less, you're setting yourself up for a lot of change orders in the future,” Weller-Demming said at the Feb. 1 meeting. “I'm wary of that.”

In response, Ponds and board President Allison Silverstein said that district administrators and the facilities committee had asked Legacy about just that, though they did not provide specific details of the response they got.

Legacy has not responded to voicemails left at its office since Feb. 7.

The company’s bid included details of the project schedules and staffing, noting that the firm would work with the district's architect, Parette Somjen Architects, to develop a pre-construction, construction and post-construction schedule for each project at each school.

The district is working with a project executive and a pre-construction coordinator during the pre-construction phase, according to the bid. One project manager will begin in June and be joined by three additional managers by June 2025. That number will then dwindle to one manager in the last few months of 2028 as the project wraps up. An administrative assistant will also be working with the district throughout the project. 

But Legacy’s bid notes that all the staffing plans are subject to change, as the company will work with Parette Somjen to determine the order, timing and phasing of projects. 

The bid lays out a tentative schedule, with projects broken down by school. Project lengths vary significantly — the shortest projects, such as a playground replacement at Hillside School and a stair replacement at Buzz Aldrin Middle School, are scheduled to last 45 days, while HVAC upgrades will last 675 days at Montclair High School and 686 days at Glenfield Middle School. HVAC upgrades account for $75.7 million, or 40%, of the $187.7 million in renovations.

But just like staffing, project scheduling is also subject to change. 

At the Feb. 1 board meeting, Scherzer said that Legacy had alerted the district to shipping delays that may affect scheduling. 

Electrical equipment, such as switchgears and panels, will take a minimum of 52 weeks to arrive after being ordered, he said. Rooftop units are taking up to 30 weeks, and ventilators are taking up to 20 weeks. 

“It’s going to be a problem that we're going to have to deal with, and I just want to talk about those things now,” he said. “These are things that we don't have any control over.”

The most expensive project for Legacy to complete, making up 15.3% of the $3.1 million bid, combines classroom renovations and systems rehabilitation at Montclair High School. The work, including auditorium, TV studio and STEM lab renovations, technology and HVAC upgrades, a boiler replacement, and more, will take a total of 675 days. 

The second most expensive project, totaling 11.4% of the total cost, is also classroom renovations and systems rehabilitation, at Glenfield Middle School. This work includes art room, science room and library renovations, electrical service, HVAC and security upgrades and more.

Bullock School is anticipated to have the shortest renovation time, scheduled for just 85 days. Bullock is the district’s newest school, built in 2010.