PIPESTONE — Pipestone Area Schools board members voted Monday night to accept the recommended bids on construction of a new elementary school after consultation with construction management firm Kraus-Anderson of Rochester.

The bids, which were opened Dec. 19, included 34 different scopes of work. Applicants were invited to bid on as many of the packages as they wished. Kraus-Anderson director of project planning and development Gary Benson explained that there were a total of 82 bidders, plus about 15 late bids that were not considered.

Over the last three and a half weeks, Benson and project engineer Tyler Kaczmarek have evaluated the bids and arrived at a recommendation for the board, based on low bidders and firm reputations. Of those recommended, 58% of the firms are local or regional — an important priority for Kraus-Anderson, Benson noted.

In total, the recommendation came in under budget, with enough room to consider some of the nine bid alternates.

Kaczmarek explained the alternates, of which eight received bids. One in particular was a source of disagreement between board members — the proposal to revamp the bus drop-off on the west side of the Pipestone Area Middle/High School.

Members disagreed about the best way to design the layout. They were unsure as to whether it's safer for buses to line up end-to-end, or diagonally along the curb to pick up students at the end of the day. Either way, there are safety risks; end-to-end increases the distance between bus doors, and diagonally creates more blind spots for drivers.

After about half an hour of back-and-forth on the issue, Benson spoke up and reminded the board members that they had 60 days from Dec. 19 to make a decision. He encouraged them to accept the base bids first, then come back to the alternates later.

Board president Jeff Baatz suggested waiting until the board arrived at an ideal design before voting.

"Isn't that what we've been doing these past few months?" asked board member Marcy Pals. "I don't know that it's beneficial to 'sit on it,' so to speak."

The other board members agreed with Pals. They voted unanimously to accept the base bid and five of the alternates, still allowing for some wiggle room in the budget to make adjustments. They determined that they could decided on the precise layout of the new bus drop-off at a later date, with the consultation of the hired construction firm.