Instead of hiring one management team to coordinate everything, the Lawrence school district should hire a general contractor for each of six school projects being planned, several area builders told the Lawrence school board Monday.
The builders spoke at a public hearing the board arranged to learn more about its options for handling the projects.
A $29.9 million bond issue passed by voters last month will finance two new elementary schools and a fourth junior high school. The bond issue also will finance the renovation of Lawrence High School and Central Junior High School and the expansion of Wakarusa Valley School.
At the Nov. 23 board meeting, Bo Harris, president and owner of Harris Construction, presented a plan for coordinating the six projects. Under the plan, Harris Construction, B.A. Green Construction and Gene Fritzel Construction would serve as the district's project management team.
Rather than assigning a general contractor to each project, the management team would oversee the six projects and take competitive bids from subcontractors. The management team would be involved in the process at the design stage in addition to overseeing the actual construction.
BUT MOST speakers Monday recommended a general contractor for each project.
Dean Ferrell, president of Ferrell Construction in Topeka, said he thought project management is needed only in certain cases when dealing with a complex project like a hospital or auto plant, when a "fast-track" construction schedule is necessary, or when there's a lack of competition in the general contracting or subcontracting market.
"I don't see that any of those reasons would require you in this situation to have a construction manager," Ferrell said.
Eliminating the general contractor would require the district to work directly with 40 to 60 subcontractors, he said.
Board member Tom Murray said he didn't want such a burden thrust upon school board members.
"I just don't believe that that's a responsibility that anyone should be asked to undertake," Murray said.
Marty Kennedy, general manager of Kennedy Glass in Lawrence, said eliminating the general contractor would allow the board to look at and evaluate the subcontractors' bids.
John Bueltel, president of Lee and Bueltel Construction in Topeka, said a disadvantage of eliminating the general contractor is that all subcontractors would be required to be bonded.
WHEN A general contractor does work for a government body, the general contractor must be bonded; subcontractors need not be. A contractor is bonded when a bonding company guarantees that the contractor will do the work according to specifications and at the price agreed upon.
Many subcontractors who normally could work at a competitive price cannot get bonded and therefore could not work for the district, he said.
But board Vice President John Tacha said requiring subcontractors to be bonded may be advisable since that would guarantee the quality of work.
"It's not just the dollar figure that this board is interested in," Tacha said.
Mark Gwaltney, owner of Diamond-Everly Roofing in Lawrence, said the ability to get bonded actually has a lot to do with a company's liquid assets, not just its track record.
"I DON'T know that bonding is a great qualifier as far as the quality you get," Gwaltney said.
The board also heard proposals in which a project management team would assist the district only with design work and with construction supervision. General contractors would handle the bidding and the actual construction.
The board members will hold a study session from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14 to discuss what they heard Monday.