Flathead High School Demolition to Begin Around April 1

Renovation project contract lower than anticipated, freeing up funds for upgrades at Linderman Education Center

By Myers Reece

Demolition is expected to begin around April 1 at Flathead High School for a renovation project that will remove 27,500 square feet of aging infrastructure and construct 46,200 new square feet.

The project, part of the $28.76 million high school bond approved by Kalispell voters in October 2016, will replace the original gym, dead-end “half-floors,” old lecture hall and boiler room with a new gym, classroom space and 21st century learning areas, while making a number of other upgrades.

The Kalispell public school board awarded the contract to Swank Enterprises, whose base bid came in at $9.25 million, considerably lower than Sletten Construction’s $10.7 million. With soft costs and other expenses included, the $11.87 million total price tag is over $1 million lower than the engineer’s budgeted cost estimate of $12.95 million.

Tom Heinecke, project manager for Morrison Maierle, the Kalispell company heading up design and planning alongside Great Falls-based LPW, said Flathead High School is a “complicated building” that has accumulated a series of piecemeal additions over the decades. The renovation project will both modernize and streamline the school.

Morrison Maierle and LPW are also teaming up to lead the design and planning processes for the new Whitefish elementary school and the Somers Middle School reconstruction project, both of which were approved by voters in those respective districts last October.

Crews are currently conducting asbestos abatement at Flathead High School. Demolition will last roughly six weeks beginning around April 1, Heinecke said. After demolition, construction will begin on the new infrastructure. The project’s completion date is slated for Aug. 15, 2019.

The lecture hall, built in the 1970s, is currently used primarily as a study hall, Heinecke said, while the old gym, also known as the auxiliary gym and constructed in the 1930s, hosts physical education class. There are discussions about cutting up pieces of the gym floor to offer as mementos.

“It’s a piece of work,” Heinecke said of the old gym.

The project will also upgrade plumbing, electricity, locker rooms, bathrooms and the elevator, while improving accessibility, safety and security. The only proposed aspect of the project not to be approved yet is the construction of a Verizon tower. Heinecke said Verizon has long wanted to build a tower in the area, and the company approached the school board about tying it into the high school construction.

“They said, ‘We’ll pay for the cost of the tower and work out a monthly arrangement if you let us build a tower on your building,’” Heinecke said. “The board is exploring that.”

The $54 million bond package approved by Kalispell voters in October 2016 included the $28.76 million high school bond and a $25.28 million elementary bond. It provided funding for building the new Rankin Elementary School in south Kalispell, as well as upgrades and deferred maintenance at every school facility in the district.

Erick Enz, the Kalispell school district owner’s representative on the bond projects and president of Axiom Builders Group, said Swank’s lower-than-anticipated bid for Flathead High freed up funds for work at Linderman Education Center, which is also part of the high school bond.

Linderman was slated for base mechanical, electrical and plumbing upgrades, but additional identified needs weren’t covered by the original bond request. The available funds from the low Flathead High bid, along with the availability of unallocated bond funds, will allow those additional needs to be addressed at Linderman, Enz said. Swank Enteprises was also awarded that project.

“It does mean that we have more flexibility,” he said. “Now we can do substantial renovations — renovating spaces, relocating certain spaces, flooring upgrades, accessibility upgrades.”

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.