Guest Editorial

Moving forward with school project means taking step back

By Katie Baustian

Luverne School Board Chairman

As of Thursday, Aug. 23, the Luverne School Board voted to reject all the bids for the project and go out for new bids.

The bids came in $3 million over budget, and that was a number the board was not comfortable trying to “value engineer” away.

Three years ago the school board was given a tour of the middle/high school kitchen. We were surprised by the workspace, and many of us thought of the cafeteria area as bleak, truly not a welcoming place to have lunch or any other activity for that matter.

Another area of the school that the board had been discussing was the Little Theater and new seating. When we looked at a remodel of just the Little Theater, it came to our attention that the theater was not Americans with Disabilities Act compliant due to the slope of the floor, and we would lose about 25 seats in order to make it ADA compliant with a cost of about $1 million.

These two areas were our main reasons for going out for the referendum with the added benefit of updating the middle/high school.

Our consultants recommended two different voting items on the ballot; in case voters would vote against the performing arts center, we could still pass the cafeteria/commons/ school improvement area.

Much to our elation both passed.

The consultants did a great job of discussion groups and told me they held more sessions in Luverne than any other school.

A group of board members, administration and staff had been working with the consultants on the building plan with our understanding that they would give us a plan that was in the $23 million budget. Well, the plan came in at over $24 million, and the bids were higher than that.

What to do?

We started what they call “value engineering,” which equates to cutting things out of the plan.  Two of the areas the consultants wanted to cut were the kitchen/commons and the performing arts center.

So as a board we were disappointed and frustrated that the consultants had presented a plan that first, didn’t meet our initial goals and second, bids came in $3 million over budget.

After our session with the consultants and looking at ways to deduct costs, we decided to reject the bids.

This doesn’t mean we fired the consultants; we will continue to work with them but will need a plan that comes in at the budget given.

The board gained some insight of the challenges it was facing when the original plan called for the need for six boilers for the school, but during the value engineering discussion we were told we could reduce that number to four boilers.

So we will move forward with a clear understanding of staying in our budget, getting a wonderful remodel to a well-maintained but old facility, and doing it right.

We will go out for bids from November-February with construction to start in the spring or May 13 at the latest.

This has been a very interesting process, a learning process for our school board.

It will work out. It will be wonderful. It just isn’t going to happen in our initial time frame.

I believe the whole board has taken on the thought that we would rather do the project right than quickly. So instead of starting the year off with construction, we will end the year with construction.

Thank you for your patience as we move forward.

Comment Here