By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
The Madison County School Board on Thursday hired Lexington architect firm Clotfelter-Samokar to oversee major renovations to White Hall, Daniel Boone and Kit Carson elementary schools.
With board member Mary Renfro the only dissenter, the board voted 4-1 to hire the firm, which has been managing construction projects for the district since 2000.
However, Renfro and fellow board member John Lackey questioned the project’s $12 million cost estimate, compared to the $4 million expected in 2007 when the district’s Facilities Plan was adopted.
“It’s not more, as you would expect it to be, but it’s two and a half times more,” Lackey said. “Things do seem quite high.”
BG-1s, or project applications to the state education department, give a “ball park” estimate of what construction projects will cost, said Tony Thomas, an architect with the firm.
The BG-1s, reflecting the $12 million estimate, were approved by the local board in its December meeting and are under review by the state.
The plan is to renovate major systems such as electrical, plumbing, heating, cooling and roofing, which are more than 30 years old in some buildings, Thomas said at the December meeting. The expected completion date is August 2015
Superintendent Elmer Thomas said the 2007 facilities plan estimates did not anticipate some renovations now needed.
For example, Daniel Boone’s 2007 plan listed partial renovations to the HVAC, electricity, roofing, ceilings and plumbing systems as well as its parking lot. But Daniel Boone has other needs as well, he said, such as replacing the slanted sidewalk that causes water to pool in front of the entrance and the possible replacement of a few windows.
Director of Operations Kevin Hub said the 2007 plan also did not estimate costs for new bathroom facilities required at White Hall Elementary.
“Those are things that we didn’t think about seven years ago,” he said.
The 2007 estimates also did not include renovations to parts of the buildings “that were not 30-years-old at the time, that are 30-years-old now and now eligible for renovation,” Tony Thomas said.
A district is required to complete a District Facilities Plan every four years, but the process was waived in 2011. An explanation for why it was waived was not given Thursday.
Hub said he and the superintendent agreed that waiving a district facilities plan should “never happen again.”
During facilities planning, a walk-through is conducted at each school and plans are made to replace recurring renovations, such as roofing, HVAC and electricity, he said. Projected costs for each project comes off of a pricing chart provided by the state department.
Tony Thomas said his firm completes facility evaluations for other districts as well, and KDE has a very “cookie cutter” guideline for projects.
“We don’t feel that number really reflects the value of what it is in the current market,” he said.
Hub said when he begins putting together the 2015 facilities plan this fall, he will work closely with Thomas to provide more accurate estimates of future renovation costs, but the 2007 amounts were “never designed to be an estimate of a total renovation cost.”
A more accurate figure for current renovation projects cannot be determined until about April or May, he said, after construction bids are accepted.
“Another thing Dr. Hub, we have had one or two or 10 conversation about no frills?” Superintendent Thomas asked Hub.
“I know for sure that Mr. Thomas is clear that ‘pretty’ is not what we’re in the mood for anymore; we’re looking for function,” Hub replied.
But Renfro was opposed to hiring Clotfelter-Samokar and didn’t agree with “hiring whoever,” she said.
To complete the projects over the next two summers and part of the school year, Superintendent. Thomas said he was recommending the board hire the firm, which “has already done a lot of the field work.”
However, the district would consider hiring another firm for major projects in the future, the superintendent said.
Clotfelter-Samokar had already received bids for required topographical surveys at each school, but found a way to bundle the schools together and save the district around $6,000, said board chair Mona Isaacs.
“That’s the kind of added value that you’ve brought to the table,” she said of the board’s current architect.
During the winter break, Tony Thomas and district administrators did some “field reconnaissance” at each school and found that some of the buildings did not match original plans, which must be redrawn, he said.
“We saw pretty much what we expected … other things were a little worse, but that’s why we get above the ceiling and look at some places to make sure we catch everything,” Tony Thomas said.
Hub said the architect firm is already familiar with the district and its previous building updates and renovations, which will expedite the project.
“I think we need to open it up for bids. Is it going to really hurt us to do 30 days and find somebody to do bids with? I don’t really think it will,” Renfro said.
Superintendent Thomas said if the district was to open up bids for architectural services, the new architectural team would need to complete new surveys and do their own inspections, delaying the project.
“The word ‘bid’ is getting thrown around, but for architectural services, you don’t bid,” Tony Thomas said. “It’s more of a qualification-based hire.”
However, bids will be accepted for each construction project.
The board can pick and choose some of the renovation projects that are completed at each school if it wishes, said board member Becky Coyle.
“One thing I know for certain, no work can begin, until this board accepts a bid... hiring the architect tonight is basically allowing us to move forward so they can send those bids out and we can maximize the summer,” Superintendent Thomas said.
By the end of the meeting, Lackey agreed that the project must move forward.
“The superintendent has decided that we’re benefited by staying with Mr. (Tony) Thomas’ firm, at least for the present, and I think we have to defer to Mr. (Elmer) Thomas’ decisions about this,” he said. “I do believe it speeds things up Mrs. Renfro.”
Lackey said he was “pleased” the district will look at other architectural firms in the future, but Clotfelter-Samokar is familiar with these particular projects and “would be the natural one we would probably hire anyway.”
Look in Sunday’s Richmond Register for a second story about Thursday’s school board meeting.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.