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Sticking with the tried and true

CCA board looks at construction project methods

TIFFIN– By consensus of the group, the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) School District Board of Directors settled a decision eight months in the making.
Since May of last year, the board has been mulling over two distinctly different ways of conducting a major building construction project: the traditional way, and Integrated Project Delivery, or IPD.
Estes Construction is a firm endorsed by the Iowa Association of School Boards (IASB) to be the Iowa Construction Advocate Team (ICAT). Estes’ representatives have met with the CCA board several times regarding IPD, the method they recommend, and– if hired by a district­– the method they would oversee as the project construction manager.
The traditional method of building construction follows a “design, bid and build” model, in which the district hires an architect to design the building and then puts the plans out for bid by a general contractor to oversee the project and hire subcontractors. The traditional method is what the district followed for the construction of North Bend Elementary in North Liberty and the new High School in Tiffin.
Under the IPD model, all participants are brought together early in the design phase, with a construction manager taking the place of the general contractor. The construction manager bids packages for concrete work, steel work, plumbing, electrical, etc. Estes representatives claim a cost savings of at least 10 percent, and maybe as much as 20 percent, using the IPD process.
The discussion has been preparation for a possible major construction project to address continued enrollment growth, particularly on the eastern side of the district in the North Liberty and Tiffin areas. A facilities committee formed last fall and has met four times to explore enrollment data and offer recommendations to the school board.
Now, the committee is preparing for a Wednesday, Jan. 30, special meeting with a focus on brainstorming a list of possible solutions.
If the committee and school board decide on options such as renovating or expanding existing facilities or constructing a new building, it would take a bond referendum to approve borrowing for the project.
ICAT representatives have been following a tentative timeline toward a potential ballot measure in September.
The administration is preparing a process by which architectural firms will be contacted and formally asked to submit a proposal for design services, if needed. CCA used Shive-Hattery for North Bend’s initial design and recent classroom addition, the high school, fine arts center and athletic complex, as well as for a multi-year proposal to renovate and expand the current middle school. The middle school proposal was offered in May 2010, but only the first phase– demolition and relocation of the former weight room and some plumbing work– has been completed at this point.
During the board’s discussion, Bob Broghammer said he wanted to be sure board members would have input on the project, regardless of the delivery method, early in the process. Jim Seelman, a veteran of the North Bend and high school projects, assured Broghammer that those projects were a true collaboration with administration, staff, the board and community all working together.
“Everybody had every chance for input, even the teachers,” Seelman said.
Board member Steve Swenka told the group he could not see the overwhelming advantage to going with IPD.
“I just don’t see the great reward for going down this path,” Swenka said.
“It saves us money,” replied board member Terry Davis.
Seelman, a contractor himself, disputed ICAT’s claim of cost savings by saying it is not a case of saving construction dollars, but theoretically saving dollars during the design phase. Seelman advocated for the traditional method but stressed whoever the board hires, it has to be somebody with whom the board is comfortable.
Aimee Pitlick went a step further.
“No, it has to be somebody Ray is comfortable with,” referring to CCA’s construction manager Ray Willoughby, which drew laughs from the group. When asked if he’d be on board for future projects, Willoughby replied, “It’s up to the good Lord. He takes care of me.”
Davis said since the traditional method worked for the previous projects, and with having Willoughby, he felt comfortable going the traditional route. Seelman advocated for using Willoughby, rather than hiring Estes to fill the role. Broghammer agreed with Seelman.
“Ray is our eyes on the jobsite,” said Broghammer.
“I want everybody to be comfortable with this,” board president Eileen Schmidt cautioned. “We’re looking at two to three years and a lot of work to do.”
Superintendent Denise Shares gave a nod to Estes/ICAT, saying they have helped the administration and board determine what questions to ask. She emphasized the district had approached them first, as a potential resource.
“They want the business, of course, but they also understand we are doing our due diligence,” Shares said.
“We’ve gone through this process, we’ve got Ray, I’m okay with a general contractor,” Pitlick said, but added if they were starting from scratch, she would go with ICAT and their IPD method.
Willoughby was asked if there were any cost over-runs on CCA’s previous construction projects.
“None of our projects have ever gone over budget,” said Willoughby. “We’ve always come home with money in our pocket.”
No formal vote was taken, but a consensus was reached indicating the board’s support for the traditional method. Currently there is no formal bid process underway for any professional services.
The facilities committee will meet on Wednesday, Jan. 30, at 6:30 p.m. in the cafeteria of the Clear Creek Elementary School for a brainstorming session, a next step in preparing recommendations to the board. The meeting is open to the public. The committee has a website with agendas, minutes and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): www.cca.k12.ia.us/admin/facilitycommittee.html.