Pros and cons of hiring construction manager discussed
The Woodford County of Education will need to choose a construction manager or general contractor before asking the Kentucky Department of Education to approve its project application for a new high school. That decision will likely come at its regular meeting next Monday, June 17, at Safe Harbor Academy. Chief Operating Officer Amy Smith recommended the board hire a construction manager rather than accepting bids from general contractors during a meeting Monday, June 10. “We get to pick” a construction manager, Edelen told the board. “… With a general contractor,” she added later, “we’re not picking the person that’s going to manage this huge project because it’s bid and low bid gets it. “With a construction manager, we have more control over identifying a qualified person to get us through this entire project and manage all of these contracts.” If the board hires a construction manager (CM), it was noted the district will have contracts with the project’s individual contractors. So there’s a downside to hiring a CM if one of the contractors goes out of business, architect Ron Murrell told board members. He said the board – in consultation with its CM – would have to re-bid that work. Schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins said a construction manager reports directly to the board in terms of being “our liaison … to ensure that things are being done the way that they need to be done.” Murrell described that as a positive, “especially on a project of this size.” The board approved a preliminary budget amount of $35 million for the high school project in May, but Vice Chair Debby Edelen questioned a total project cost of $36.265 million listed in the project application form. That total included cash one-hand (building fund and capital outlay dollars), explained Smith. She said it was her understanding that the board voted to set a cap on how much it wanted to bond (borrow) for the high school project. Edelen said it was her understanding when she voted that “$35 million was the highest budget for the entire project.” Board Chair Ambrose Wilson IV and member Dani Bradley agreed with Edelen’s understanding, but Sherri Springate said her understanding was “$35 (million) would be the top.” Board member Allison Richardson, who was absent when the board voted on a spending cap, said, “I’m fine with it being $35 million plus the cash because we can still go down…” The board will be asked to approve an application with the probable project cost next Monday. Residential facility The board approved a linkage agreement that allows the owners of a psychiatric residential treatment facility (JWAN, LLC) to proceed with seeking a certificate of need in order to possibly locate a 48-bed facility in Woodford County. Wilson’s motion passed 4 to 1, with Edelen voting no. Before the vote, Edelen expressed concerns related to not having sufficient information about this treatment facility prior to the board approving the agreement. “I don’t know how we can make this decision for perpetuity – once it’s here, it’s here – without knowing what we’re getting into (in terms of the district’s cost obligations to educate children living at the treatment facility),” she said. Wilson said the agreement acknowledges that JWAN, LLC is exploring options related to placing its treatment facility in Woodford County in order to obtain a certificate of need from the state. If treatment facility comes here, he said the agreement acknowledges Woodford County Public Schools will provide educational services. “There’s no disagreement that this need, that this behavioral need is growing each day,” said Wilson. “I think this would be a great facility for Woodford County.” He also voiced his objection to cost being such an emphasis when there are so many students within Woodford County who will benefit from this facility, which would also offer outpatient services. The approved agreement does include language that “it shall be renewed and continued annually unless written notice of non-renewal from either party is received at least 90 days prior to the stated ending date,” but Edelen said the district has an obligation under state law to educate students living in Woodford County. Edelen said prior to approving an agreement with a “for profit company,” it’s important to have agreements in place so the board knows how costs related to educating children living at the facility will be recouped by the district. Bradley noted a treatment facility in Marshall County is staffed by the school district as though it’s at capacity. Chief Academic Officer Jimmy Brehm said the district will probably need to provide four special education teachers to educate 48 students with individual education plans. The average cost for a teacher salary is $55,000, Smith said. Bradley said she was confident that the school district will have community partners if JWAN, LLC decides to choose Woodford County as the location for a residential treatment facility. Also, Bradley said she would like local kids who have a need for mental health services to have “some sort preference” for the 48 beds if the treatment facility opens here. Tax collections The board authorized its attorney to proceed with potential litigation, “including the initiating of a lawsuit against the Woodford County Sheriff’s office seeking a declaratory judgment regarding the tax collector’s fee …,” according to a motion made by Wilson. His motion was approved by a 4 to 1 vote, with Richardson voting no. The board’s action came after going into closed session with attorney Grant Chenoweth and a discussion last month about Smith’s review of the books containing information about the costs incurred by the Woodford County Sheriff’s office to collect property taxes for the school district. Smith’s review showed that the district paid more than the actual cost to the sheriff’s office last year, Wilson told board members in May. He said the district paid $402,000 (2.5 percent of the dollars collected) and the actual expense to the sheriff was closer to $239,000 (1.5 percent).