Archive for Wednesday, December 3, 2008

De Soto board OKs construction management deal with J.E. Dunn

December 3, 2008

On a split vote, the USD 232 Board of Education agreed to negotiate with J.E. Dunn to provide construction management services on the first two projects in the bond package district voters approved last month.

The discussion before the 4-3 decision saw a repeat of many of the arguments and emotions voiced and displayed last month when the Board debated what architectural firm should design the projects in the $75 million bond issue.

In that post-election decision, it was agreed to negotiate with Hollis Miller — the firm that has been the district’s architect for more than a decade — the design for the expansion of Mill Valley High School from an enrollment capacity of 1,000 students to 1,400 and awarded Horst, Terrill and Karst Architects of Topeka and Overland Park the contract to design a new elementary school in Shawnee.

It was also agreed the district would monitor the performance of the firms before selecting an architect for the bond issue’s third project, the expansion of De Soto High School from 750 to 1,000 enrollment capacity.

It was again agreed to delay awarding a construction management contract for the expansion of De Soto High School, but J.E. Dunn is to be the only firm with which the district negotiates for construction management services for the bond’s first two projects.

As with Hollis Miller, the district’s long association with J.E. Dunn for construction management became an issue in recent school board campaigns. Board members Bill Fletcher and Randy Johnson questioned what they viewed as a cozy relationship and called for the board to open the selection of both professional services to competition.

The two men restated their positions Monday.

“When I buy things, I check out prices,” Fletcher said. “I just think we should go out for bids on something of this magnitude.”

There were a lot of firms looking for work in the current economic slowdown and the district could get a better deal by shopping around, Johnson said.

The two men pointed to the savings the district enjoyed when the expansions of Starside and Clear Creek elementary schools were put out for bids in September.

However, Fletcher’s motion to seek request for proposals for construction management services failed by a 3-4 vote with Tim Blankenship the only board member to join Fletcher and Johnson.

The other four board members said they supported district facilities director Denis Johnson’s recommendation to again contract construction management with J.E. Dunn based on its familiarity with Mill Valley High School and district staff, the tight timeline to finish the projects by August 2010 and the firm’s history of opening on schedule every school it managed for the district in the past 10 years (Johnson missed the meeting because of a recent surgery).

Complicating the high school’s expansion would be the improvements to Monticello Road that are to be done at the same time, district planning director Jack Deyoe told the Board.

Board member Jim Thomas praised J.E. Dunn’s record with the district, particularly in regard to it work on Lexington Trails Middle. In response to Board member Johnson’s statement that many district residents wanted to a break with J.E. Dunn, Thomas said he had heard no such complaints.

But it was the tight construction scheduled that Board members Larry Meyer, Don Clark and Janine Gracy cited in joining Thomas in voting to contract construction management services with J.E. Dunn. That schedule was also the deciding factor last month in their support to select Hollis Miller to design the Mill Valley expansion.

Once the vote was complete, Blankenship joined Fletcher and Johnson in expressing disappointment.

“I always supported getting the district the best value,” Blankenship said. “I especially can’t vote for this because we don’t have a price we’re voting for.”

On a related issue, the Board approved fee structures with Hollis Miller for the design of the Mill Valley expansion and Horst, Terrill and Karst for the new elementary schools that will pay each firm 6 percent of construction bid prices for the respective projects. Denis Johnson wrote in a report to the Board the 6 percent fee was lower than the respective fees the firms submitted for the projects.

The Board did agree to seek request for proposals to provide financial planning services for the bond. Clark made the motion noting the district’s current financial planner, Steve Shogren, was from Wichita. The financial planner from the metropolitan area would be more responsive and familiar with the local financial climate, he said.


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