The Lawrence school board perhaps should have considered more candidates in selecting a construction management firm for the proposed second high school, Lawrence School Supt. Dan Neuenswander said Tuesday.
However, he said, the school board was not required to base its selection on competitive bids.
Neuenswander made the comments following a public forum on the proposed bond issue for building a second high school. Lawrence resident Ken Allen, who attended the forum, said he was concerned about the manner in which the board had selected its construction manager.
Allen, district manager for a Missouri-based building materials company, said that of 40 school projects being planned in Iowa, Missouri and Kansas, the Lawrence school district is the only one that did not take competitive bids on its project.
He also said that in interviewing only two companies for the job, the school board did not provide local firms an equal opportunity to bid on the project.
AT ITS MEETING on Sept. 11, the school board heard presentations by J.E. Dunn Construction Co. of Kansas City and by Harris Construction Co. of Lawrence. The board then selected the construction management services of Harris Co.
Both companies provided estimates as to what their various services would cost. Although board members said they felt the fees charged by each company would be similar, they did not conduct a detailed comparison of the estimates.
Neuenswander said it wasn't necessary to base the selection on competitive bids because of the nature of the service being considered.
"You don't bid professional services like that any more than you would for heart surgery," he said.
A recent Kansas Supreme Court case backs Neuenswander's view.
IN 1989, a group of general contractors from the Kansas City and Topeka areas brought a suit against the Blue Valley school district for hiring a construction management firm without going through the competitive bidding process. The Kansas Supreme Court supported the district's view that, like the professional services of an accountant, construction management services need not be selected based on the lowest bid.
Gary Gordon, assistant superintendent at Blue Valley, said, "You need to be able to choose someone with some expertise and stability that you can count on. That may or may not happen in a competitive bidding situation.
"We're walking a very thin line to try to have the lowest responsible bidder. We can determine the lowest bid, but can the person really do the job?"
UNDER construction management, a construction firm oversees the design work of the architects, the bidding of the work and the actual construction of the building.
Unlike a general contractor, a construction management firm is required to take bids on every component of the project. For that reason, Gordon said, one might actually find more competitive bidding under construction management.
The company that Blue Valley hired was J.E. Dunn. Neuenswander said the Lawrence school board chose Harris over Dunn largely because Harris is a local company. He said a local company would have more "local pride of ownership" in a new high school. He also said a local company would be more likely to work with local builders and "keep the money at home."
BUT BOB Green, president of B.A. Green Construction, said in an interview Wednesday that he would have liked the school board to consider the construction management services of his firm.
Green's company currently is in charge of building the new Douglas County Bank on Ninth Street, and the company has provided construction management services for the project. Green said the company's past projects include Malott and Fraser halls at Kansas University, and he said his company could have handled a project the magnitude of the proposed second high school.
Neuenswander said representatives of J.E. Dunn had been invited to speak because that company had introduced the board to the construction management concept. He also explained why Harris was invited, saying that when school officials talked to local architects and others in the construction business about a possible local firm, "the name that always came up for a project this size was Harris Construction.
"If we erred, we erred in not interviewing more people," Neuenswander said. "Maybe we weren't thorough enough in seeking out other local firms."