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JCISD Central Campus Project - Meet the Contractor: R.W. Mercer

April 29, 2022

Jackson, Mich. -- 

There may not be any students or teachers in the building anymore, but if you drive past the old Frost Elementary school these days, it’s anything but quiet. Since December 2021, dozens of construction workers have been spending their days inside the 70-year-old building - not preparing it for demolition, but readying it for new life. For a lot of those workers, this project has been a walk down memory lane. 

“I grew up around here. I went to Cascades, Griswold, Queens, JCMS, and then Lumen Christi,” said Mike Bullinger, Project Manager for R.W. Mercer. “While I may not have been a student at Frost, I’ve been in this school many times. They had a pool here at one time and as kids we used to come here for Open Swim nights.”

R.W. Mercer is the construction manager and general contractor for the Jackson County ISD’s Central Campus project, one of many JCISD projects the company has been involved in over the years. R.W. Mercer was founded in Jackson, Michigan in 1960, and has grown to six branches across Michigan, and one in Indiana. General contracting work, starting with the design process all the way through the build, is one part of the company, while the other part of the organization focuses on petroleum construction, like underground tanks, piping, pumps and more.

This isn’t the first time Mercer was called to do work at the former Frost Elementary school. Mercer was also the construction manager for Jackson Public Schools’ 2010 bond, which included remodeling of the front office area, all new flooring, new ceilings, classroom upgrades, and upgrades for efficiency like new unit ventilators. This time around, Mercer did all the demolition, new steel sidings for the building additions, new door frames and doors, finishes in the classrooms and all of the exterior work like new siding, hardy boards, and soffits. 

Frost was set to be demolished at a cost of over $1 million in the current JPS bond project. However, the Jackson County ISD determined the building was just the place it was searching for to address the growing need for special education services and programs, and its location in the center of the county was perfect. It purchased the building from JPS during the summer of 2021 for $1. 

“By saving this building, it protects former investments taxpayers made just a decade ago. It also increases the current JPS bond issue by at least $1 million, allowing the district to spend that money on new construction and other facility improvements for Jackson Public Schools students,” said Jackson County ISD Superintendent Kevin Oxley. 

As construction manager, Mercer is also responsible for organizing the more than dozen subcontractors who are on site for this project, many of which are also locally-based and family-owned. With so many workers from different companies in the building at once, Mercer Project Manager Mike Bullinger said this project is a great example of collaboration. “We’re a team. A lot of us have worked together on other construction projects, so we know the expectations of each other and how to work together to resolve any issues,” said Bullinger. “You’re always going to have changes on a job, but it’s how you react to those changes to get the job done and still drive the project forward on schedule.”

Bullinger is excited about what JCISD Central Campus will offer the community once it’s finished. “This building was going to end up in landfill. At the end of the day when the job is done, when staff can move in and everyone is happy and able to work together to provide the greatest resources and support to kids, that’s what we’re looking forward to,” said Bullinger. “We want to get this done on time for the kids. We think it’s a great concept - all these programs under one roof. It’s going to be great for the community and we are thrilled to be a part of it.” 

Kaci Babineau
Marketing & Special Projects