Archive for Tuesday, October 30, 1990


October 30, 1990


Library books, computer equipment, desks, lockers and office furniture are included in the Lawrence school district's $23.6 million cost estimate for building a second high school.

That figure also would pay for the services of architects and a construction management firm that has been hired to oversee the project.

In fact, about the only costs not covered would be those associated with the actual operation of the school, such as utilities, insurance and the salaries of teachers, principals, secretaries and other school employees.

Dale Glenn of PKG Design Group, which has been hired by the district to design the building, said $23.6 million might seem like a lot of money to build a high school. However, the actual construction of the school including mechanical and electrical work would cost only about $15.2 million. The rest of the money would be spent as follows:

$3.1 MILLION for site development, including lighting, parking, streetwork and outdoor sports practice fields.

$1.6 million for school equipment, including cabinets, bleachers, desks, tables, chairs and $200,000 worth of computer equipment.

$1.5 million for library books and other instructional materials.

$1.1 million for architect fees, engineering fees, soil testing and surveys.

$995,000 in contingency funds.

Included in those costs are the services of Harris Construction Co., which the school board hired as the district's construction management firm. Bo Harris, president of the Lawrence company, said that in addition to assuming all the responsibilities of a general contractor, a construction manager helps to keep down costs by working with architects during the planning stages.

"Once the design's down on paper, the money's in the project," Harris said, "so it's important to look for cost-saving measures at that stage."

HARRIS' FIRM also would oversee the bidding of the work and the actual construction of the building. In addition, Harris Construction would orchestrate the $7.06 million renovation of Lawrence High School that is part of the proposed $31 million school bond issue.

If district voters approve the bond issue next Tuesday, Harris Construction would earn approximately $2.6 million for its services.

Eric Cleveland, spokesman for Citizens for Education, a group opposed to the bond issue, said he thinks Harris Construction would have no incentive to find cost savings because the company would be paid based on total construction costs.

Harris responded that it's standard procedure to base fees on total construction costs and that architects and engineers for the project would be paid in that manner. Nevertheless, he said, his company would be willing to accept a fixed payment for its services.

He added that when a general contractor receives bids from sub-contractors that are lower than anticipated, the savings simply increase the profit margin of the general contractor. Under construction management, on the other hand, all component bids are revealed to the owner, so the school district would be aware of and would be the beneficiary of any possible savings.

CLEVELAND also questioned the district's method of selecting Harris as its construction management firm. Only one other construction management firm, J.E. Dunn Construction Co. of Kansas City, was considered by the school board.

Lawrence School Supt. Dan Neuenswander said that when school officials asked local architects and others in the construction business about who might make a good construction manager, Harris was the only local company mentioned. He said one reason the school board chose Harris over Dunn was because it wanted a firm that would have some "local pride of ownership" in the project.

Neuenswander said school officials had been "less than satisfied" with past projects involving out-of-town general contractors, who in turn often hired outside sub-contractors. He said it can be a hassle getting those people to do follow-up work, mentioning as an example some air-conditioning problems at Quail Run School that needed to be fixed shortly after it was built.

"IT TOOK us a long time to get the general contractor to come back and get the job done right," Neuenswander said.

The Blue Valley school district became the first in Kansas to hire a construction management firm when it built Overland Trail Middle School and Overland Trail Elementary School, which both opened this year.

Gary Gordon, assistant superintendent at Blue Valley, said he was pleased with the arrangement.

"It worked very nicely for us, and we'll use it again," Gordon said. "If somebody involved in the construction is behind schedule or is not doing the job right, you either don't pay him or you boot him off the job. With a general contractor, you don't have that control."

Although the construction management concept is new for the Lawrence school district, it's not new to Lawrence. The present Lawrence City Hall was built with the help of a construction management firm 10 years ago.

Said Lawrence City Manager Mike Wildgen, "It worked well for us, and I'd certainly consider it again if we had another big project."

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