Laying a foundation
OXFORD– In May of this year, Kent Pilcher and Ric Parades of the Iowa Construction Advocate Team (ICAT)/Estes Construction presented a multi-step matrix to the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) School Board of Directors. The plan was a suggested guideline to help the board determine future facility needs, and a roadmap toward a future bond referendum to pay for them.
On Wednesday, Sept. 19, Pilcher and Parades were back at the board’s work session to continue the discussion. ICAT is a service provided to districts by the Iowa Association of School Boards (IASB), and Estes Construction is the firm partnering with the IASB to work with and act on the school districts’ behalf. CCA has not entered into any agreements with ICAT/Estes, but could hire the firm to serve as a construction manager on future projects, a position currently held by Ray Willoughby.
Pilcher described the process as, “not a perfect road map, but a way to think about how we get the public engaged. It’s a way to think comprehensively.” The matrix starts with forming a facilities committee, determining wants and needs, getting key personnel (architect and construction manager) on board early, planning a public outreach campaign to build support, then finally holding a bond referendum roughly a year later. The matrix, Pilcher said, is a timeline for making decisions and disseminating information to the public.
The district has a facilities meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Oct.10, to begin the formal process of determining space needs in light of continued enrollment growth. Pilcher, suggesting a fall 2013 referendum vote, said October would be ideal for organizing, forming the facilities committee and even interviewing potential contractors.
Between October and May of 2013, the matrix moves rapidly through needs assessment, hiring contractors, plan development, securing finances and support among the community, with a kick-off to the referendum held in late May while the teachers are still in their classrooms and can be enlisted to help spread the word.
“The process is designed to showcase a steady, deliberate approach,” Pilcher said. “(It avoids) rushing (a referendum) through.” He said community involvement in the process is key, not only in seeking buy-in from the public but asking for their input as well. In the past, Pilcher said, building committees traditionally made the majority of the decisions, presented them to the school boards, and the boards then went for bond referendums without seeking much input from the community at-large. Under ICAT’s process, he said, the public has more say by giving feedback throughout.
Board president Eileen Schmidt was pleased to hear that. “I want our community members to be comfortable. At the start, at the middle and at the finish,” Schmidt said. Pilcher agreed.
“Communication is the way you build trust,” Pilcher said. “It’s a delicate balance, and it’s a lot of work.”
CCA’s facilities needs are yet to be determined. The committee and the board could consider a new elementary building, remodeling the middle school– plans and a multi-phase proposal were created by Shive-Hattery in 2010, and at least one phase has been completed– or even a combination of the two.
Once the district’s needs have been settled and a wish list created, funding capability is determined.
“The plan becomes pretty clear,” Pilcher said, in that funding helps shape what is wanted versus what can be achieved. He said at any point in the process, somebody could come up with a new idea and it can be incorporated.
“The plan is a work-in-progress,” he reminded the board. Though dynamic, Pilcher said the plan presents options, helps establish priorities and clarifies direction. “People want to know, ‘did you think about this?’ The process shows where somebody’s pet project fits into the overall plan,” Pilcher said. The planning process also looks at operational costs beyond construction, an important consideration. If a school district wants something like an Olympic-sized pool, Pilcher offered as an example, they may be able to build it, but may lack the funding to run and maintain it.
Discussion turned toward hiring an architect and other professionals. Pilcher and Parades reminded the board of ICAT’s advocacy role in suggesting firms. Ultimately, the board has to be comfortable with who they hire. ICAT already has four firms in mind and is willing to arrange interviews with them at the board’s direction. The two emphasized while Estes is affiliated with the IASB and wanting to earn its way in to any future CCA projects, their role can only be as the construction manager. According to Iowa law, Estes cannot perform the actual construction work, as it would be a conflict of interest. Estes, if hired, would hire contractors and manage the project.
How the project is managed was also a topic of discussion. Traditionally, an architect designs a building, the project is bid to a general contractor and then built. ICAT and Estes endorse what they call “Integrated Project Delivery,” or IPD, a method they claim saves 10-20 percent of the project costs. Using IPD, all participants are brought together early in the design phase with the construction manager taking the place of the general contractor. Pilcher explained the construction manager bids packages for concrete work, steel work, plumbing, electrical, etc. Under the traditional method, the building is designed and a general contractor is then hired. With IPD, the construction manager is involved during the design. Pilcher and Parades cited several studies and testimonials to back up their claims of cost savings and even faster construction times with an increase in value.
The pair again emphasized their willingness to work with the board, and said they would be at the upcoming facilities meeting.
The facilities meeting will be held Oct. 10 at CCA Elementary School in Oxford from 6:30 to 8 p.m. It is an open meeting, and the public is welcome to attend.