Meeker board gets different view of construction

MEEKER — Meeker school board members last Tuesday received a very strong lesson in construction and construction management in advance of the vote for two bond issues that could help the district build a new elementary school.
Voters will decide on Nov. 4 on Referendum 3A, which will permanently extend the existing override in property taxes that currently collects about $404,670, and Referendum 3B, which is a $24 million bond to build a new elementary school and make improvements to Barone Middle School and Meeker High School.
Mark DeWolf, who helps manage Rifle school district construction projects, told board members that the main issue in building is managing risk and design-construction management.
He explained that there are four general ways to build a bond-funded project: design-bid-build (also known as “hard bid”), construction manager-general construction (CMGC), “pure” construction manager and design-build.
The district has been leaning toward the first option with a company called Neenan Archistruction. Neenan, which is building a school in Craig, does everything, from architectural design to bidding for materials and labor to overseeing construction.
This sounds like the easiest way to do the new school, but DeWolf and others working on the Rifle projects, including Garfield RE-2 Director of Facilities Craig Jay, said that option takes control and oversight of the project away from the district.
“This is your choo-choo train. You get to blow the whistle,” DeWolf said.
Jay added that it is better not to have the architect as the project manager. One of Rifle’s neighboring school districts had such a setup and the project is late, overbudget and scaled down.
In their previous meeting, the board discussed hiring an owner’s representative to oversee the project. They had a presentation from Paul Barry of Steamboat Springs who also told board members that a construction manager would be a good idea.
DeWolf brought with him representatives of Blythe Group Co., of Grand Junction, which specializes in all phases of building design and construction, but is helping the Rifle Schools with construction management, and Hazelton Construction, which is the general contractor.
All of the visitors recommended that the district go with the CMGC format since it would protect the district more, but require more involvement by district personnel.
More upsetting to some board members was that all of the visitors recommended a modified flat roof rather than a pitched roof for reasons of cost, maintenance and safety.
In relation to the bond issues, Citizens for Meeker Schools has been hosting a series of public meetings and presentations to explain the need for a new elementary school as well as upgrades to the middle and high schools.
Board President Mary Strang said at one such event that Citizens for Meeker Schools has garnered at least 100 signatures that will be included in a newspaper advertisement in support of the bond issues.
On a lighter note, the board was treated to a song by the sixth-grade choir. Middle school principal Jim Hanks said he hadn’t heard the choir for a few weeks and when he went into the class recently, he was “blown away” by the professionalism and quality of the choir.
Hanks said that eighth-graders also want to start a choir and there seems to be some friendly competition between them to sing the National Anthem.
Board members gave their consensus to oppose Ballot Measure No. 113, better known as the Scholarship Fund Initiative.
According to ballot-pedia.org, the measure “would increase the severance tax, eliminate a property-tax deduction against the tax, retain an exemption for smaller wells and direct most of the new revenue to college scholarships.”
The district, however, supports the position of Coloradans for a Stable Economy which said the initiative would eliminate the local severance tax, thus cutting local tax revenues. In addition, funds raised from the new tax would not come back to the community.
Board members also voted to delay final approval of the district budget now that the state no longer requires approval by Oct. 15. The state changed the “due” date to Jan. 31 and the board voted to approve the budget at their first meeting in January.
The budget approval delay will allow the district staff to hone the budget based on more accurate enrollment numbers and other factors, according to District Superintendant Dan Evig.
Meeker Elementary principal Jason Hightower updated the board on various projects and events at the
school. Perhaps the most notable is homecoming on Friday, Oct. 17.
Newly hired high school principal George Henderson presented the school newsletter to board members and provided updates for sports and homecoming.