Board puts plan in motion for new school

After months of planning, the Mitchell Board of Education on Monday engaged the gears and put the wheels in motion for building a new Longfellow Elementary School.

After months of planning, the Mitchell Board of Education on Monday engaged the gears and put the wheels in motion for building a new Longfellow Elementary School.

The board approved a "request for proposal" recommendation by Business Manager Steve Culhane, which allows the district to shop lending agencies on the costs of issuing capital outlay certificates amounting to $7 to $7.5 million.

Superintendent Joe Graves said the economic stimulus package being prepared by the Obama administration could conceivably offer aid that might lower the overall project cost.

The shopping of lending agencies is a break with past district practice of using one lending house or seeking bids from several independent advisers. "We expect to get four or five proposals" using the new method, Culhane said. All interested firms will bid on capital outlay certificates with a 20-year amortization schedule.

With a contingency of 3 percent, the new school's current projected cost will come in at roughly $8.8 million, or $300,000 above the budgeted $8.5 million. Hopes are that a competitive bidding climate and slack offered by alternative bidding items will allow the district to remain within budget.


Board member Bob Everson, a mechanical engineer by trade, complained to Kyle Raph of Koch Hazard Architects that the board should have been presented with plans earlier.

"If we're going to approve bid documents today, then we should have them all in front of us," he said, adding earlier distribution would have allowed more time for closer study of the updated plans.

Everson declined a suggestion to table the project pending further study. That would have delayed the project, which is already on a tight timeline, he said. Any changes could be offered as addenda to the original proposal, he said.

The remaining timeline for the Longfellow construction project is:

- Feb. 4: Public hearing at Longfellow Elementary on the use of capital outlay funds as a revenue source to fund the project.

- Feb. 11: Pre-bid meeting with prospective bidders.

- March 3, 10 a.m.: Bid opening with Graves, Culhane, and Greg Girard, director of buildings and grounds, with the aid of Koch Hazard Architects and Puetz Corp. Bids will be examined and recommendations prepared for the board.

- March 9: Board accepts or rejects presented bids.


If all goes according to schedule, the school will be completed by May 2010.

Everson also disagreed with a plan presented by Puetz Corporation that would have allowed bidders to offer lower-cost alternative materials beyond those originally specified within the 25 segments of the project. Those materials, however, could not be used without board approval.

"Voluntary means you can add alternatives that will cheapen the project," argued Everson, who pushed for creating a uniform set of alternatives to allow all bidders an equal opportunity to compete. Other board members agreed and approved the plan.

Mark Puetz, representing Puetz Corp., said the new approach will lessen, rather than increase, his firm's work. Under the new plan Puetz Corp. will select quality alternative materials and will have a lesser range of options to manage.

"You'll be comparing apples to apples," he promised.

There will be no alternatives offered for items like the school's state-of-the-art geothermal heating and cooling system. That plan requires contractors to drill 150 geothermal wells that will allow the school to take advantage of the earth's 50-degree temperature to heat rooms in winters and cool classrooms in summer. The wells will be drilled near the playground-parking areas of the old school.

In other business Monday, Graves said the district may survive the initial series of budget cuts proposed by Gov. Mike Rounds but the budget could still lose TCAP funding that would have been used to reward good teachers and attract new instructors. The district might also lose some funding for special services.

"The silver lining is that we're still looking at a 1 percent overall increase (in state funding)," he said.


Also Monday, the board:

n Approved the following personnel items: New hires: Stacey Eddy, wind power instructor, Mitchell Technical Institute, $50,000, 248-day contract, effective March 1 for fiscal year 2009, prorated to $17,137; Lindsay WynKoop, food service worker, senior high, seven hours daily at $8.58 an hour, effective Jan. 20; MTI tutors: Courtney Totton, Sheri Gilland, and Andrew Hershman, all at $6.75 an hour. Change in hours: Dawn Patton, reduction of hours from five to three hours, effective Jan.13.

- Approved a resolution declaring surplus property. The items will be listed on the district's Web site. Items that receive no bids eventually will be discarded.

- Approved two high school-level open-enrollment applications.

- Briefly considered a question from Ronette Guymon, who asked the board what the amount of teacher salary hikes will be for the coming year and if those hikes will require dipping into reserves. Graves said salary raise figures weren't immediately available Monday and promised to supply those figures. But Graves said it will require a combination of budget cuts and reserve cash to meet next year's budget.

"There will be a pinch," he told Guymon, and that pinch that will require the district to make budget cuts and to dip into reserves of about $3.2 million, an amount that is 23.2 percent of the general fund budget. That figure offers some welcome budgetary slack, since it surpasses the board's budget reserve goal of 20 percent, said board member Eric Christensen.

- Briefly reviewed additional items on the district's 2007-08 report card.

What To Read Next
Get Local