August 23, 2014

School district may use alternate pre-bid process for construction of Southeast High

Wichita school officials are considering a different approach for the new Southeast High School bond project in which a construction manager would work with designers before the project goes to bid.

Wichita school officials are considering a different approach for the new Southeast High School bond project in which a construction manager would work with designers before the project goes to bid.

The process, called construction at-risk management procurement, was approved by state lawmakers in 2008 as an alternative to the typical construction bid process for complex projects or ones with tight deadlines.

It allows districts to hire a construction manager by negotiation, before the design is complete and without competitive bidding at the prime level.

“It’s about flexibility, scheduling and cost control,” district spokeswoman Wendy Johnson said in an e-mail.

The Wichita school board will hear a presentation about the proposed process Monday and could vote to use the option for the first time. A public notice published in The Eagle on Friday said members of the public wishing to address the board on the topic should do so at that meeting.

The board voted last year to build a new high school at 127th Street East and Pawnee. The school – by far the largest and most expensive project approved as part of the 2008 bond issue – will be the new home of Southeast High rather than a smaller, Class 5A high school as proposed in the original bond plan.

Officials hope to break ground this fall on the new school, estimated to cost $56 million. It is scheduled to open in the fall of 2016.

The district’s bond manager said last month that the project is still on track for a 2016 opening, although the design process has taken longer than expected.

If board members approve the proposal Monday, they would set a timeline for the process and decide who would be on the interview team to select a manager, Johnson said.

Any aspect of the project over $20,000 would be bid, regardless of who is selected to manage the process, she said.

For previous bond projects and other construction, the Wichita district has used a traditional design-bid-build process: An architect drafts plans and specifications, and contractors bid for the project. The lowest responsible bidder is awarded the project.

Under the construction manager at-risk method, the design and construction phases overlap a bit, similar to most private-sector construction: The district would select a construction management at-risk firm that functions as the general contractor. Various parts of the project are bid during the construction process, after the construction manager gives the district a controlled-budget price.

Industry experts say advantages include a faster construction schedule, better coordination among architects, engineers and contractors, and the ability to more effectively handle changes in a project’s design or scope.

Although Wichita has not used the process before, some other school districts, including Derby and Maize, have used it for bond projects, Johnson said.

Also on Monday, the board will hold a public hearing on its proposed 2014-15 budget, which it plans to vote on Monday.

The $683.8 million budget, available to view on the district’s website, lowers the local property tax rate and includes a 2 percent raise for teachers and other employees.

Under the proposed budget, the Wichita school district’s total mill levy would decrease from 57.2 mills to 53.6 mills, a savings of about $41 a year on a house that is valued at $100,000.

The board also will consider a proposal to extend Superintendent John Allison’s contract through June 2017 and increase his base salary by 2 percent, to $229,408.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

Wichita school board meeting

The Wichita school board meets 6 p.m. Monday in the North High lecture hall, 1437 Rochester, near 13th Street North and Waco.

Items on the agenda include a public hearing on the 2014-15 budget, approval of a new teacher contract, a proposed new construction process for Southeast High School and extending Superintendent John Allison’s contract.

Anyone who wishes to address the board can register to speak by calling 316-973-4553 before noon Monday or register in person prior to the meeting.

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