Bids for the West Salem School District’s proposed multipurpose athletic facility have come in higher than expected and school board members are unsure how to proceed.

The board met Monday and voted 3-3 on a proposal to award a contract for the facility to the lowest bid, which was $3.88 million. The district was hoping to pay $3.7 million for the project, said district superintendent Troy Gunderson.

A special school board meeting has been scheduled for Monday and Gunderson said the board will have to decide if it should accept the low bid, and then work to cut the cost or put the project out for new bids.

Gunderson said it would likely be more efficient to seek new bids but that would take longer. He said that uncertainty over the cost of building materials, in particular steel, could see bids increase further. The athletic facility is planned to be 41,500 square feet in size.

The difference between the low bid and what the district hoped to pay is relatively small, which means no drastic cutbacks to the project would have to be made. Gunderson said it could mean changes to concrete finishes on the inside of the building, or to plans for sound systems and exterior work.

The board had an “honest debate” about the issue, Gunderson said, and will now look to reach consensus on a way forward at Monday’s special meeting.

In a referendum held earlier this month, voters in the school district allowed the district to use $1.5 million leftover from a budget for a middle school project to be used for the athletic facility and for an expansion to the district’s automotive building.

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