MUSCATINE — On Muscatine High School's north side, ground is broken and dirt is moving. The pre-construction phase is beginning on the school's new gym.

"We just started this week, really getting going on it," said Jeff Miller, director of facilities for Muscatine Community School District. "We had our pre-construction meeting last week, so we are in the early stages.

Miller said at this point, workers are installing electricity for use on the project. Fences now wrap the perimeter protecting the site and keeping pedestrians from wandering into it. They are excavating the site so they can get in the concrete footings. 

"We want to get the footings in before it gets too cold," Miller said. "We'd like to see a nice, mild winter. Because we can still continue to move forward on things, working on the ground."

It's important that those footings get put in now, or otherwise the project could phase a slow down with the lead time needed for the steel. 

The biggest thing right now is the lead time for the steel," Miller said. "We're like 10 weeks out. You put the (footings) out there and that puts you into February."

Before the cold sets in the ground, Miller is hoping those footings go in. 

"We can set the steel when it's cold but the footings that we put in now, those have to be in decent shape," Miller said. 

At the school board's October 23 work session, Tim Bower motioned to approve Burlington-based Bi-State Contracting's bid on the project for $2,466,740. The motion passed with six in favor and one from Nathan Mather against. 

Bi-State has worked with the high school and Jefferson Elementary School in the past. Miller said that working with them in the past has gone just fine. 

"It's like any project," Miller said. "It has its ups. It has its downs. You hope you have more ups. I don't have anything bad to say about them. Both buildings look good."

Miller did say that he hasn't lost his enthusiasm for the momentum of this project. 

"Whenever you are involved with a project that has your heart and soul in it, it's exciting," Miller said. "It's exciting — and it's a little nerve-racking."

Providing everything goes well in this pre-construction phase, Miller said the building is going to go up fast. 

"Getting the footings going in is huge," Miller said. "We've got to get those in. After that, your going to see is if and when they decide to pour the concrete floor and then the steel erection goes up. Once the steel erection goes up the building going to fly." 

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