by Andrew Garda

The Woodman Track project is delayed, as the Montclair Board of Education voted to reject the single bid they received at their June 18 meeting.

While three companies were interested in bidding — American Athletic Track and Turf, ATT Sports, Inc. and Shauger Group — ultimately only American submitted a bid by the May 23 deadline.

Their bid came in at $1,415,400 — $340,400 over the requested ceiling of $1,075,000 the Board of Education set for the project.

That’s 24 percent over budget.

So what went wrong?

School Business Administrator and Board of Education Secretary Emidio D’Andrea said there were two reasons for the high bid.

One reason is additional unforeseen work, which often crops up when an architect, design firm or construction outfit takes a closer look at a project as a bid is readied.

“There is some additional work that was included beyond the original cost estimate for some drainage work, which is required under the field,” D’Andrea said.

The bid specifications for the interested companies were outlined in a document back on April 20. They include an all-weather synthetic track surfacing system meeting the standards of the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF), track and field markings in accordance with the US Tennis Court and Track Builders Association’s “Track Construction Manual,” a five-year warranty, a suggested maintenance schedule and a list of outdoor track facilities they installed within the last five years using a synthetic track surfacing system like the one Montclair is looking for.

It also listed materials expected to be used in the track rebuild, including SBR rubber, a polyurethane binder and asphalt concrete.

Some of those materials are affected by another factor, one which could impact any construction plans around the Montclair School District, whether this project, the Fortunato Field rebuild or any other major renovation. That factor is one we all have had to cope with lately - the rising cost of fuel.

“I think the current increase in fuel cost has driven part of the cost of the project up, because of having to use asphalt and all,” D’Andrea said.

A project, even of this modest scope, requires a lot of fuel. Diesel for trucks or construction equipment and petroleum for asphalt are just two things which are impacted by oil and fuel prices, which are currently sky-high.

On Monday, July 9, the cost of oil hovered at about $78 a barrel for BRENT crude, a combination of crude oil from 15 different oil fields in the North Sea, and $74.06 currently the price for a barrel of WTI crude, West Texas Intermediate, often used as the North American benchmark.

Some companies, such as Morgan Stanley, feel that those prices — already some of the highest since 2014 — could top $80 a barrel this summer.

All of which makes estimating how much is needed for the track quite a moving target.

The BOE has gone back to the literal drawing board as they attempt to find a solution to the issue. When they reconvene on July 16 for the next public meeting, they hope to have some ideas as to how they can get the project moving forward again, and then hopefully re-open the bidding shortly thereafter.

However, this didn’t appear to be an extravagant design to begin with, so the question remains, where can they cut back in order to make up for both unforeseen issues such as the drainage and uncontrollable costs such as the rising price of crude oil.

Balancing that need along with the safety and well-being of student-athletes, as well as the intent to build a track which will last for many years, will be a big challenge.