Construction on the Rivera Middle School joint-use gym begins Friday and board members are crossing their fingers that no unforeseen costs accrue in the process.
Merced City School District board members met Tuesday night and approved the contracts for a number of parts of the project, such as roofing and plumbing.
The project was originally approved by the school board in 2008.
The total estimated cost for the gym is $5.1 million and the school will use $2.5 million from the Measure S bond.
Measure S was a $26.5 million facilities bond measure that has been used on modernization projects at most of the district's elementary schools. Those projects included safety improvements, electrical upgrades and projects that make sure the facilities comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The state has set aside roughly $1.5 million and the city is responsible for $1 million of the project for its eventual use of the facility, school officials said.
The city will have full access to the gym one hour after school each day, as long as a school activity is not planned, using it mainly for recreation activities, according to earlier Sun-Star reports.
Susan Walsh, an MCSD board member, said she was happy to see some movement with the project.
"I'm delighted we have common ground with the city and can share resources," she said.
Students at the school have been using the school multipurpose room for years as their athletic space, said Greg Spicer, associate superintendent for the Merced City School District.
The room has tile flooring and isn't entirely adequate for sports, he added.
During the approval portion of the meeting for each of the 11 contractors, Gene Stamm, an MCSD board member, stressed that he didn't want to see any change orders on the project.
Last time MCSD had another district school there were a lot of unforeseen circumstances that ended up costing more than the initial estimates, Stamm said.
"I want to make sure the bidders and the architects are together on what's expected," he said. "You can look at low bids, but when it comes to change orders, that can add a lot to the project."
Jeff Miller, senior constructionist manager with WLM Construction, said there are contingency allowances built into the project proposal but he didn't anticipate any change orders.
Out of the 11 contractors approved Tuesday, 39 percent were from Merced County, 50 percent were within a 35 mile radius and 60 percent are 65 miles from Merced, said Kraig Magnussen, MCSD chief operations officer.
"Absolutely, we want to keep the money in Merced," he added.
Reporter Jamie Oppenheim can be reached at (209)385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.