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Signs of progress

CCA construction projects moving along

OXFORD— Finally, the end may be in sight for the delay-plagued addition to the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) middle school in Tiffin. The $15 million addition should have been completed in August and available for use this fall, ahead of a renovation project in the older sections of the building.
“They’re coming along,” district construction manager Ray Willoughby said at the school board meeting Wednesday, Oct. 21, at Clear Creek Elementary. Willoughby said interior painting and the terrazzo flooring were nearing completion. LADCO– the heating, ventilation and air conditioning contractor­– was also making progress, work that Willoughby estimated was about 90 percent finished.
The current estimate is that the district will be able to move into the addition after winter break.
The district assessed a financial penalty against general contractor Bi-State Contracting because of the missed completion deadline, but the penalty amount has yet to be determined due to time lost in a dispute with Alliant Energy in August. As preparations were made for Alliant to switch the addition from a temporary electrical source to permanent power, it was determined additional electrical equipment was needed to comply with the utility’s current policies and guidelines. The equipment already in place met the company’s previous requirements; however, Alliant insisted on installing additional equipment, which led to a delay of approximately one month. The temporary electrical supply was insufficient for the power demands of various contractors, which further delayed the interior work.
District superintendent Tim Kuehl has working with Alliant regarding compensation, but as of the time of the meeting, discussions were still ongoing.
“Ray (Willoughby) and I toured it today and I wish we were in it, but it’s going to be awesome when it’s done,” Kuehl said. “It’s a great facility.”
Willoughby also reported the final few items were being wrapped up at the new Tiffin Elementary, and the sidewalk/trail from the west edge of the Tiffin campus along Highway 6 was complete with only some miscellaneous clean up left to do.
Design work continues on two additions for the high school. Ten new general purpose classrooms, two science labs and a support space for the teachers will be contained in a two-story addition on the north side of the school, as well as a 21,000 square-foot, two-story expansion of the gymnasium to the south. Included in the gym expansion are a practice/auxiliary gym with sufficient room for two volleyball courts and a full basketball court with bleachers along the south side. A unique feature proposed by building and grounds director Maury Gallagher is an elevated walking/running track on the west, south and east sides that will connect with a renovated weight room and fitness center. Below the track, on the west side, will be storage space for athletic and physical education equipment, while a mechanical room, storage and restrooms will be under the track on the east side.
Keith Johnk, with Shive-Hattery Architectural and Engineering, said the current plan is to put the project out for bid in early March for completion in July 2017.
With concerns over how Bi-State has managed the middle school expansion, board member Jim Seelman asked about ways the district can better assess a bidder or potential contractor to avoid such lengthy delays in the future.
Johnk responded via email.
“Many school districts, and other public entities, are having the same discussions, but the Iowa bid laws make it very difficult to select a contractor other than the lowest bidder,” Johnk wrote. The law states government entities must select the “lowest responsive, responsible bidder.” The intent is to ensure public tax dollars are spent wisely while eliminating potential prejudice or unethical financial arrangements in selecting a contractor.
“The difficult part,” Johnk added, “is proving which contractors are ‘responsible’ and which ones are not.”
Kuehl said the district discussed the potential for additions to the bidding process, including having bidders list their site superintendents along with references from previous, similar projects. “A critical path timeline will also be required with the bid,” Kuehl said. “If the district would select a contractor who was not the low bidder, we would need objective justification for the decision.”
According to Johnk, based on Iowa’s bid laws, such a move could turn into a legal mess. Johnk said he spoke with the district’s attorney about defining a responsible contractor and was told, “It would be very difficult, legally, to select someone other than the low bidder, but it has been done. Typically it ends up in litigation, which in turn delays the project until the suit is settled,” Johnk reported.