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First bids for Huntley High School expansion under budget

HUNTLEY – The initial set of construction bids on the long-awaited expansion to Huntley High School, totaling $15.12 million, have come in slightly under budget.

The bid package Huntley District 158 board members will vote on Thursday is roughly $1.49 million less than administrators expected to spend when advertising the bids last month.

The savings could help officials pay for the planned Harmony Road improvements near the high school that coincides with the expansion, Superintendent John Burkey said.

"It's much more positive to have these first set of bids under budget rather than over budget," he said. "Hopefully, it means other items won't be over budgeted. It's better to be in this place."

Construction will begin next month on the $15.12 million initial improvements, starting with site and demolition work, Burkey said. Heavier construction, such as a new fieldhouse and redesigned main entrance, would start in June, when students are done with classes for the summer.

The building improvements will be the first in a wide-ranging expansion plan administrators revealed early last year. The renovations are needed, officials said, to accommodate the 3,000 students expected to attend Huntley High by the end of the decade.

Crews already completed $3.64 million in improvements last summer to the school's athletic fields, including a new synthetic turf at the Red Raiders' football stadium.

The most important improvement included in the $15.12 million bid package is a new access road east of the school that will lead students to a new parking lot, Burkey said.

The road eventually will connect to Harmony Road, a two-lane street that has increasingly caused traffic congestion for students and parents.

District officials are working with McHenry County to secure the permits needed to add turn lanes and widen shoulders along Harmony near the new access road for students.

The district under-budgeted for the work, but the savings from the first bids should give officials "a cushion" to help pay for it, Burkey said. The road improvements and main entrance should be completed by the time students return for school in the fall.

"Parents and students will see a vast improvement," Burkey said. "The traffic is one thing most people will see alleviated."

A second set of bids – estimated at $7.35 million – will be presented next spring. The bids would cover interior renovations, including a new library and retooled cafeteria.

The two-year, $31.6 million building expansion is expected to be completed sometime in 2016. The district is using a $39 million state construction grant to pay for the project.

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