Meeker school board rejects charter school; OK’s owner’s representative and $179K fee for building project

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MEEKER — In one of the significant decisions school board members handled over a series of meetings, they approved the basic design and construction contract for the new elementary school.
In addition to the basic design-construction contract for Neenan Archistruction, the board selected a company to represent the district in during the elementary new school’s construction and reviewed the construction contract and rejected an application by Flatirons Academy for an online charter school.
Although the Neenan contract received unanimous approval, board member Ben Rogers “noted for the record” that he was always in favor of submitting the elementary school contract to competitive bidding. Neenan was chosen without competitive bidding.
Hiring an owner’s representative (owner’s rep) showed its value within the first week the owner’s rep was hired.
“I’m more comfortable where we are now than where we’ve ever been” with the design contract, said Superintendant Dan Evig.
This is the first of two basic contracts and accounts for about $1.5 million of the $24 million being raised by the voter-approved bond measure.
The second contract will cover the specifics of construction and the board still needs to decide how to pay Neenan for its services.
There are four basic pay schemes the board will consider at a future date. For now, the first contract is based on what’s called the guaranteed maximum price (GMP). This means that despite any additional costs, the district will only pay the stated maximum cost, not including certain fees and other excluded costs.
The process for choosing an owner’s rep included three presenters at the Nov. 12 special meeting. The district received five applications in response to its request for proposal (RFP) for the contract position.
First to present before the board was Paul Barry, who has been a construction manager or owner’s-rep on several major construction projects in Steamboat Springs, among other locales.
Barry, of Oak Creek, told the board he had been involved in projects that included environmentally efficient building, such as using photovoltaic (electrical) solar panels and so-called “green” construction techniques. These activities included working with the governor’s energy office for such aid as technical assistance and monetary grants.
Barry estimated his remuneration for the project at about $182,000 for approximately 182 hours.
Jim West of Vanir Construction Management Inc. (Vanir CM) presented the board with a variety of reason why they should approve Vanir —and him — as the owner rep. Vanir CM is a member of the Vanir Group of Companies Inc., which also has brokerage, development and project construction divisions.
Among those are the various projects he’s worked on, both in and outside of Vanir, which is based in Sacramento.
Just as importantly, West said, is the fact that he’s worked on design-build projects, such as the currently proposed elementary school. Neenan Archistructure has been working on design and site issues for the district. They currently are building the new middle school in Craig.
Design-build projects means that one company does both the architectural design and the construction. Traditionally, project owners will hire separate architects and construction operators.
Among the projects, West has worked on are schools for Summit, Park and Adams counties and the Poudre school district, hospitals and other buildings. One of the projects, Merino Elementary School in the northeast corner of the state near Sterling, also was a Neenan project.
West estimated Vanir’s fees at around $179,000.
The final presenter was Norm Kinney of the Burke Company in Grand Junction.
Kinney who has some very strong ties to Meeker schools. He’s been involved with various aspects of work on Barone Middle School. In fact, Norm said, “I’ve worked on all of the (Meeker school) buildings.”
He’s also done construction management for schools in Debeque, Dove Creek and Cortez, among others.
One of his strong points, he said, was that he looked at projects in terms of saving costs while meeting all of the standards and needs of the various entities involved in such projects.
For instance, Norm said he saved about 10 percent — or about $6 million — for the owners on a project in Grand Junction.
Norm said he isn’t fond of the design-build process, such as represented by Neenan. Instead, he prefers an architect hired by the district, rather than an architect hired by the general contractor, which would be Neenan in this case. That is because the architect will be more responsive to the needs of the district.
He also added that he would make sure all the district is always in the loop.
“It’s my intention the board have access to daily reports and pictures,” as well as monthly reviews, Norm said.
Norm estimated his fee for three people, including a project manager living on the construction site, at $217,000.
After an executive session to discuss the proposals, the board came back into public session and voted 3-2 to approve West and Vanir as the owner representative.
West was directly involved in refining the Neenan contract approved Tuesday, indicating his value as an owner’s rep. He added a number of elements to the contract that are designed to hold Neenan more accountable and to track progress more closely.
In connection with this process, the board created a building committee consisting of two regular members and two alternates. Board Vice President Ed Coryell and Treasurer Paul Nielson will be the primary members. Board President Mary Strang and Board member Rogers will be the alternates.
The purpose of the committee is to meet every other week with a Neenan representative, owner’s rep West and the two board members to get updates on design and construction and either make decisions not requiring full board approval or forwarding the information and decision to the board.
Charter school rejected
Flatirons Academy Charter School filed some 62 applications statewide, according to Meeker schools Superintendent Dan Evig. He said that Flatiron’s application was deficient in many aspects, including inconsistencies in names and other elements.
“There’s no information (in the application) about the state’s new online education review process,” Evig told board members Nov. 12.
Flatirons formerly managed what was called the Mile High Academy charter school but has been replaced by other management. Evig had urged the board to reject the application based on these and other factors.
Evig suggested in an interview at the Nov. 4 meeting that the motivation for Flatiron is that charter school operators would get state funds for each student enrolled.
Several other school districts already rejected Flatiron’s application and others are taking up the issue this month.
The board voted to hold its next meeting on Thursday, Dec. 11, at 6 p.m.