The Morgan County School District is moving forward with school construction plans that voters will consider in November, hiring an architect and more recently, a general contractor and construction manager.
Because district officials want specific details and costs with which to educate voters, they approved Hogan & Associates as the general contractor/construction manager (GC/CM) for the two proposed building projects. Hogan built the past additions to Morgan High School, Morgan Elementary School and Morgan Middle School. At their March 14 meeting, four school board members voted in favor, with Adam Toone casting the lone dissenting vote.
Voters will consider a bond Nov. 7 to finance up to $12 million to construct a classroom/kitchen/cafeteria addition at Morgan High School as well as up to $28 million for a new middle school on Trappers Loop in Mountain Green. The district is prohibited from borrowing over a cap of $45 million, as determined by market valuations of property throughout the county. If approved, the bond would be for 25 years and increase the property tax on a $300,000 home by up to $180 a year.
A request for proposal (RFP) was sent to 13 GC/CM companies, seven of which responded, six with a bid price including:
Westland Construction $725,000;
Hogan & Associates $1,367,000;
Hughes General Contractors $1,483,900;
Wadman Construction $1,638,000;
Darrell W. Anderson $1,885,000;
Stacey Enterprises $2,627,800.
But the low bid wasn’t—and can’t be—the only determining factor, said District Business Administrator D’Lynn Poll.
“The procurement rules do not allow us to choose someone based solely on price anymore,” she said. “Years ago that was how they were chosen, but companies did not think it was a fair process. So over the years, the legislature has changed the process that details how we evaluate the bidders.”
The first step was a volunteer review committee considering qualifications, team strength and management plan in all six companies’ RFP responses. The next was choosing three applicants to be interviewed, in this case the lowest three bidders—Westland, Hogan and Hughes. During the interview, the interview committee looked for examples of completing projects on time and under budget, strength of the site superintendent and team, and value brought to the pre-construction process. The third criteria considered was price.
A scoring system based on each step was tallied, and the company with the highest score was given the project, Poll said.
The interview committee discussed the preconstruction fees, for cost analysis and proposals, the selected general contractor would incur before the issue is even printed on mail-in voter ballots, Toone said. Poll verified these fees would be around $24,000, an amount the board could end up paying before the bond is passed.
“Their pre-construction responsibilities will be to attend all meetings (at least every other week from now until the plans are completed probably in October sometime) with the architect and engineers as the plans are developed; attend community meetings to answer questions; and prepare for the board estimates on what the project will cost so they can decide what the bond amount will be. Then throughout the plan development process they will be updating their estimates, getting pricing for elements of the plans, and looking for value-based options that can be implemented into the plans,” Poll said, adding assistance with pre-bond marketing information to the list. “It is really a very time-consuming process.”
Hogan got started on that process this week, sending five employees to the high school to evaluate utilities in an effort to determine what is going to need to be moved, the cost involved with removal, and what needs updated to provide the services for the addition.
“There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes on to prepare an accurate estimate of the cost of the project,” Poll said.
“It is important to have a GC/CM in the early stages of the plans to work with the board and the architects to establish plans and costs to present to the taxpayers so that an informed decision can be made at the polls,” according to a letter written by Superintendent Doug Jacobs.
The MHS addition will add space for an additional 300 students while a new middle school will reduce enrollment by 200 students in each of three other schools including Morgan Middle School, Morgan Elementary and Mountain Green Elementary. The MHS addition will be built in front of the existing building while school is in session, with a projected completion date of August 2019. The old classroom wing will be demolished, making way for additional parking space and future gymnasium.
The new middle school will allow Mountain Green residents to remain in neighborhood schools through the eighth grade while providing public meeting space with seating for 400 and a performance platform. Discussions with a neighboring land owner may make way for a park and additional playfields, Jacobs said. With a projected completion date of August of 2020, the new middle school is expected to be a two-story building.
In a previous meeting, the school district hired NJRA and Associates as the architect for the two projects. While this would be NJRA’s first project in Morgan, they have “an impressive record of designing many distinctive schools in the state,” according to Jacobs’ letter. “The board members want to present a well developed plan to the voters in the county with specific project details and costs. The board is not asking the voters for a blank check.”