Meeker school board approves construction mill levy

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Second mill levy will fund
operations; board seeks
member to replace Kai Turner
MEEKER — School board members approved the mill levy Dec. 11 for the bonds that will fund construction of a new $17.5 million elementary school and another $6.5 million in improvements to the high school and middle school.
Actually, the board certified two mill levies.
“The first mill levy was 5.96 mills and will cover the bond indebtedness — to make our principal and interest payments — for capital construction,” said Mary Strang, board president. “And the other is a general fund mill levy of 9.206 that goes for operating expenses and includes the override of 1.07 mills.”
Voters approved the bond and override mill amounts in the Nov. 4 general election. The override mill levy — question 3A on the ballot — will generate $404,670.
“That will go into the general fund,” said Superintendent Dan Evig. “We have targeted that revenue for specific things, such as textbooks, to keep class sizes small and to recruit and retain teachers.”
Money generated from the 5.96 mills is designated for the building project.
“That can only be used for our building and our building activities,” Evig said. “The money can not be used to run the district or go into the general fund. It goes into a specific fund that can only be used for the purposes that voters approved.”
Evig expects the bonds for the school building project to be sold this week.
“That will generate approximately $24 million to put into our project fund to build our building and do renovations with other schools,” Evig said. “(Money from) the mill we passed will actually go into the bond redemption fund to pay principal and interest.”
The board is moving forward on the bond project.
“We accepted and approved a resolution to go ahead and set up the conditions for the sale of the bonds,” Strang said.
The board is using Dan O’Connell of RBC Capital Markets of Denver to market the bonds.
“We engaged him to take care of everything relative to the bonds,” Strang said.
Serving as general contractor on the project will be Neenan Archistruction of Fort Collins.
The Neenan company came highly recommended.
“We’ve done a lot of research,” Strang said of the hiring of Neenan. “Craig, Kremmling and Telluride have all used the Neenan company.”
The district used Neenan to conduct a facilities needs assessment and do some preliminary design work prior to the bond election.
At a meeting in November, the board also hired Jim West of Vanir Construction Manage-ment of Denver to represent the district’s interest throughout the building process in what is called an owner/representative.
“The owner/representative will serve as the school district’s project supervisor and will work with the project’s general contractor,” Strang said. “An owner representative has expertise in all facets of construction and will protect the interests of our school district and its taxpayers. Unlike larger districts, we don’t have a facilities manager on staff who could help with construction oversight. This makes it more important that we engage a private project manager. Although hiring an owner representative will be an expense, it will save the taxpayers money in the long run.”
Strang said West knows his stuff.
“This guy is a construction specialist,” Strang said. “He’s an engineer himself. He’s a good man, who knows the business. He will help us get our biggest bang for our buck. That’s why the owner/rep is so critical.”
The board also interviewed Paul Barry from Steamboat Springs and Burke and Associates of Grand Junction for the owner/rep role.
While the board interviewed other owner/rep candidates before settling on Vanir, it decided to go with Neenan without competitive bidding.
“We did have one citizen come to the board meeting and question the bidding process,” Strang said. “Their frame of reference was more of a traditional approach, but the design build process is quite different, and Neenan is a design build firm. They have the architectural expertise, as well as the general contractor expertise, all under one roof.
“I feel very good about it (hiring Neenan),” Strang said. “We opted to go with this firm, because they came so highly recommended. We liked the advantages of the design build process. It’s practical, it’s functional.”
Strang said the district is accepting applications to replace Kai Turner on the board. He resigned his position in November because of time constraints. In January, Turner will assume his new duties on the Rio Blanco County Commission.
“We will interview the candidates at the first meeting in January,” Strang said. “At the second meeting in January, I will appoint someone to the board. They will be installed at the first meeting in February.”

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