The Appointment of Tetra Tech Architects
There appears to be some confusion over newspaper coverage of the District's appointment of Tetra Tech Architects to replace KG&D Architects, who resigned on August 27, 2014.
On December 17, 2014, the Board of Education approved the appointment of Tetra Tech Architects. It was prudent for the District to interview and select an architect prior to the vote. Should the voters approve the project on January 27, we now have qualified professionals in place to immediately begin the post-referendum design process needed to obtain State Ed approval and to initiate the competitive bidding process. Timing is very important to keep the project on schedule and avoid the potential for cost escalations.
Tetra Tech's $2.9 million fee for completing these plans is contingent upon a successful vote and is included in the $52.9 million total project cost. Therefore, should the vote be unsuccessful, the $2.9 million is not paid.
KG&D Architects provided a valuable service to the District. They worked extensively with the Board of Education, administrators, staff, and community to develop a long-term, comprehensive facilities master plan. They went above and beyond the timeline in the initial request for proposal for services. They responded to ever increasing volumes of questions from the Board and even developed an additional conceptual design (we had started with looking at four scenarios and ended up with five scenarios). They did comment that they had never worked with a Board of Education who had such an intense focus and need for data and to question everything. It was an exhaustive examination, but one that both KG&D and the BOE agree provided the knowledge needed to plan for the future needs of the facilities, students, and taxpayers.
KG&D had completed the first step in bringing a plan to the public: the creation of the comprehensive facilities master plan and subsequent development of the Capital Project scope of work, which the Board adopted on June 18, 2014. At this point, their work was at a standstill until the project had community approval and they could begin developing detailed plans for the project. Should the voters approve the project on January 27, TetraTech will pick the project up at this stage, using the extensive details provided in the pre-planning process to fully develop the concepts and designs needed to move forward.
Project Costs are Only Estimates
Concern has been raised that the individual line item costs for the school capital project require additional detail and/or are too high. On behalf of the NPCSD Facilities Committee, we would like to share these important details.
The estimates used are based on school construction industry standards that are quite complex and heavily regulated. They were prepared by KG&D Architects, who have more than 20 years of expertise in school construction. As an added due diligence, the estimates were also verified by a construction management firm, The Palombo Group. The estimates are in line with what these professionals deem as reliable for the purposes of planning a project. They are also in line with estimates for other school projects in New York State.
The actual costs will only be determined after a competitive bidding process is completed. Bidding does not happen until after the project is fully designed and given New York State Education Department (NYSED) approval. This design/approval does not happen until the voters authorize the project; it would be very costly (approximately $2 million) to fully design a project before having voter approval, especially when weighing the risk that the project may not be approved.
It is also important to note that the voters approve a maximum cost for the entire project, in this case $52.9 million, NOT the cost of the line-by-line items. By law, the project cannot exceed the amount approved by voters. If bids come in less, however, the district would borrow less, and the taxpayer cost would be reduced.
The estimates are also higher than one would expect when doing a home improvement project because a school district is required to follow more stringent building codes. For instance, buildings must be resistant to tornados, must have a specific level of fresh air exchange, and must meet countless other specifications that drive the cost of items. Schools also may only hire contractors who pay prevailing wages that are established by the New York State Department of Labor. These factors cause a significant increase in costs.
Please remember, the line item descriptions were not written with the intent that they would be a stand-alone document for a layman to understand. There were extensive presentations and discussions further detailing these items that cannot realistically be captured in print.
For further details about any of the information presented in the line-by-line estimates, please email Rick Linden, Assistant Superintendent/Business at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 845-256-4010. The District is the best and most accurate source of information.
Michael Domitrovits and Jacob Lawrence,Community Members of the Facilities Committee