By NEIL RIDDELL
DANISH firm MT Hojgaard has been selected as the preferred bidder to build the £8.5 million new Mid Yell Junior High School.
The company, which recently built a new school at Suduroy in Faroe, has worked on a number of large construction projects throughout northern Europe and is understood to be keen to take on more business in the isles in the future.
It has built more than 150 schools in Denmark and has also worked in Greenland as well as Faroe.
The first task for the company will be to sit down with the council’s education department over the remaining winter months and try to find ways of adjusting the design so that it can be brought back within the £6.8 million budget available for construction costs.
It was first reported in last week’s Shetland Times that the firm’s tender was substantially over that budget and the Yell community will also have to be consulted as modifications to slice more than £1 million off the building costs are sought.
According to an SIC press release, the process of cutting costs is expected to last between four and six months. It is hoped that building work can start in the late spring with a projected opening date of August 2010.
Head teacher Mark Lawson said the cost was always going to be a concern in the current financial climate but was pleased with the announcement of the contractors.
“They seem very forward-thinking, when I met them they seemed very approachable and willing to work with the community,” he said. “I’m very hopeful that we’ll be able to work with the contractors and get a school that’s going to serve us well.”
Services committee chairman Gussie Angus said he was “delighted” to learn of the construction firm’s appointment. He said: “Of course we have to get it in on budget and that’s their first task, but I’m delighted and hope that their experience in Faroe and Greenland will stand them in good stead in Mid Yell.
“Education staff have looked at the spec which led to the over-budget estimate [and are] quite confident they can take it back without any deleterious effect on the bairns’ education. You get a contract, you build it at the price, unless it’s some catastrophic unforeseen circumstances.”
MT Hojgaard area manager Christian Levinsen said the company was very pleased with its appointment and was certain that it would be able to provide a high quality school for Mid Yell.
Around £1.5 million has been spent to date on getting the site prepared – work carried out by local civil engineering firm MK Leslie and the council’s roads department – and covering the cost of architects’ fees and planning applications, but the project team has been told that it has to build the school within the fixed budget, leaving just under £7 million for the construction phase.
The new school will replace the existing 1960s buildings, more than a fifth of which now consists of temporary huts, serving 120 pupils.