Archive for Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Messy process brought about district change

December 17, 2008

There is the oft-repeated adage that we should not watch sausage made or government in action. Certainly, the last two De Soto USD 232 Board of Education meetings were messy. That doesn’t mean they weren’t productive. And as the ugly process of making sausage from an odd assortment of ingredients produces a tasty treat, the various points put through the meat grinder of board deliberations has apparently changed how the district chooses firms to design and manage the construction of bond issue projects.

Despite or because of the recriminations and heat, the board has broken with the past and changed how future boards will select architects and construction managers for bond projects. That is obvious despite the selection of the district’s longtime architect Hollis Miller to design one of the projects included in the $75 million bond issue approved last month and the selection of J.E. Dunn to provide construction management services on the first two projects.

There is a difference of opinion on how well the two firms have performed for the district, but in one objective test — delivering projects on schedule — they have always delivered. That earned the firms the comfort with enough board members to be retained for the earliest of the bond projects.

Clearly, there were other board members who didn’t share that comfort and who remain upset that selection of construction management services was again made outside of a competitive process. If they weren’t successful in that case, the dissenting board members do seem to have won the bigger victory of forcing the district to start seeking requests for proposals. That change has already won a new architectural firm the contract to design the bond’s new elementary school. In an additional departure from past bond issues, not all the current bond’s architectural and construction services were awarded at one time. The board agreed to delay architectural services and construction management of the expansion of De Soto High School.

It’s not a knock on Hollis Miller or J.E. Dunn, both of which will very likely be involved with district projects, to suggest the new policy is a constructive step.

It is our position that open, competitive processes serve the public best, whether it be for logistical support in Iraq or architectural services in the local school district. The process gives the board and district shelter from accusations of inside deals while encouraging responsiveness and accountability from winning firms. It also has the bottom-line benefit of giving taxpayers the best deal on the marketplace.


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