Former teacher, board member tells PW-S officials they should hire clerk to supervise $49.4 referendum project
The Port Washington-Saukville School Board plans to select a construction management firm to oversee its $49.4 million school improvement initiative next week, but in the interim it received some advice from an architect who is no stranger to the district.
Barrett Genson, a former Port Washington High School teacher and school board member who most recently served as director of facilities planning during the development of Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Fla., told school officials during Monday’s board meeting that they should hire a clerk of the works to oversee the project and represent the interests of the board and taxpayers.
“Hiring someone independent of the architect and the construction manager who works just for you may alleviate some of the consternation the public, including the Common Council president, has expressed about how the architect was hired,” said Genson, who added that he essentially served as a clerk of the works during construction of the Florida university.
Genson was referring to criticism the board has received for deciding to hire Bray Architects, the firm that conceived the most expensive referendum in the history of the district, to design improvements at Port High and Dunwiddie Elementary School without seeking competitive bids.
Last week, Ald. Dan Becker, president of the Port Washington Common Council, said the school board’s actions “didn’t pass the smell test.”
Genson agreed, saying, “It doesn’t seem right to hire an architect for a $49.4 million project without going through a selection process.”
A clerk of the works, who would report directly to the board and administrators, would ensure the additions and renovations planned for the two schools are built to specifications and are completed within the budget and on time, Genson said.
In addition, a clerk of the works would settle any disagreements between the architect and construction manager, something that’s important given the complexity of the high school project, he said.
“Forty-nine million dollars of construction is enormous,” Genson said. “You’re going to have a tough row to hoe accomplishing this while keeping school open.
“On a project of this size, there are going to be conflicts, and you’re going to want a clerk of the works to represent you and settle them.”
Supt. Michael Weber, however, said it will be the job of the construction manager to oversee day-to-day construction and report directly to school officials.
“That’s what we’re hiring a construction manager for, but we appreciate his (Genson’s) willingness to be available to help us,” Weber said. “Someone with Barrett’s experience will be valuable.”
The board is currently considering proposals from two finalists for the construction manager job — Fond du Lac-based C.D. Smith Construction Inc. and Milwaukee-based CG Schmidt.
Administrators and school board member Marchell Longstaff recently toured a CG Schmidt job site at Hartford High School and a C.D. Smith project in the Lomira School District.
“Both companies are very professional,” Weber said. “They truly are the owner’s person; they answer to the owner, not the architect.
“We can’t go wrong with either of them.”
School officials have also made progress in clarifying the fees proposed by each of the firms.
CG Schmidt has proposed a management fee of $692,647 plus 1.69% on change orders.
C.D. Smith has proposed a fee of $685,000 with no additional charge for change orders.
Less clear, however, are the general condition charges — hourly rates for various supervisors and, in some cases, job site equipment such as portable toilets and on-site offices — which hinge on the duration of the project. Conceptual plans estimate it will take four years to complete the high school work.
The board met in closed session Monday to develop a negotiating strategy and expects to have final proposals to choose from when it meets Monday, May 18.
In related news, administrators said Monday that quick action by school officials to borrow $33 million of the $49.4 million less than two weeks after the referendum has saved about $900,000 in interest costs. That’s because interest rates have increased since then.
Fearing that would be the case, Director of Business Services Jim Froemming worked with the district’s financial firm, Baird, to finalize details for the sale of bonds prior to the referendum, so if the referendum passed the board could act quickly to take advantage of low interest rates.
“All of us knew how tenuous the market was,” Weber said. “Almost immediately after the referendum we were able to lock into a 3.2% rate.”