$16,000,000 is the maximum allowable construction cost for the work on the Agua Fria Elementary School project.

$22,239,000 is the lowest bid Santa Fe Public Schools received from any contractor.

"Companies that are qualified to do that project will bid it the same way, and my guess is, unless the drawings change significantly, most people won’t rebid it because it’s a waste of time."—Joe Flemming, preconstruction service manager, Bradbury Stamm Construction

Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez made it sound like a minor hiccup in the Agua Fria Elementary School construction project when she spoke at a June 21 SFPS Board of Education meeting. Instead of announcing which contractor was selected for the project, she explained that all the bids came back too high.

"We believe that we can very quickly turn this around and go back out to bid using a little bit different process, what we call a hard bid process, and be able to bring in the recommendation for the general contractor to our July 19 meeting," Gutierrez told the board.

A "hard bid" process is different from a request for proposals process, which the school district tried initially. In the former process, the contractor with the least expensive bid is chosen; in the latter, a contractor is chosen based on a number of factors.

But Flemming, whose company bid on the project, says the school district won't get any bids within the budget even under a hard bid process—unless they're willing to employ an inexperienced contractor.

"Obviously, if all the bids are way over budget, the original budget was wrong," Flemming says.

That original budget was created by architect Claudio Vigil, who already convinced the district that instead of spending $6.7 million to renovate the school, they should spend a total of more than $20 million to completely demolish and rebuild it. Now, it appears the district will have to spend even more—or scrap Vigil's vision for the site.

SFPS Director of Property Justin Snyder agrees that the results of the bid process suggest Vigil's cost estimate was off.

"Right now, we are not where we need to be," Snyder says.