Grafton School Board moves ahead with new school
Construction firm, architect hired
GRAFTON – Since voters in the Grafton School District approved a bond referendum for the new school building project on Oct. 3, events are moving forward to get the project under way.
On Sunday, the Grafton School Board held a special meeting to approve the hiring of the architect and construction manager for the project.
The board also passed motions to transfer funds and authorize a payment to the Bank of North Dakota to pay off the district’s loan to the state for the Century Elementary building project which began in 1998.
In paying off that loan five years ahead of schedule, the district will free up funds to help pay for the new construction project that could start as early as next spring.
First the board approved a motion to transfer $181,238.06 from the special reserve fund. The board then passed a motion to transfer that amount along with an additional $293,650.77 from the general fund to the building fund.
Using an additional $200,000 in carryover from the building fund, the board authorized a payment to the Bank of North Dakota in the amount of $674,888.83 to pay off the 20-year, state school construction loan for Century Elementary. The loan was originally scheduled to be paid off in 2018.
According to Grafton Superintendent of Schools Jack Maus, by paying the loan off early, the district will save $20,303 in interest.
The board unanimously passed a motion to enter into a contract with ICON Architectural Group of Grand Forks as the official architect for the project.
ICON has been on board since the building project was first proposed more than two months ago. With the help of Johnson Controls of Grand Forks, ICON developed the first preliminary plan for the renovation to parts of Grafton High School, Century Elementary and North Valley Career and Technology Center as well as the new Central Middle School addition.
Barry Kingsbury made the motion to approve ICON as the architect for the project. It was seconded by Greg Feltman and the motion passed unanimously with all members present except Russell Carignan.
Maus told board members that although there was a preliminary plan for the construction project, the building plan at this point is “wide open.”
He said there are two committees that will oversee the project from here on out. The first is the Facility Committee which will have the final say in all decisions. That committee is made up of Maus, principal Darrin Albrecht, school board president Tom Torkelson, and board members Kingsbury and Feltman, a representative from ICON and the construction manager, building and grounds superintendent Chad Ruzicka and Cal Kaste.
There will also be a design committee made up of three of the four remaining board members as well as school staff and members of the public.
On recommendation from the facility committee, Kingsbury made a motion to offer a contract to Construction Engineers of Grand Forks to be the “Construction Manager at Risk” for the project. The motion was seconded by Feltman and passed by a 5-1 margin with board member Donald Suda voting no.
That vote puts Johnson Controls out of the building project. Johnson Controls worked on the first two phases of the project which identified needs of the district and public opinion. It also made presentations at two public information meetings.
Suda said he liked Johnson Controls and felt they had a unique grasp on what Grafton residents wanted when it came to a new school since they had been working on it since day one.
Suda also voiced concerns about going with a construction manager at risk instead of a construction manager.
“By picking Construction Engineers, aren’t we picking a general contractor too?” he asked.
Suda also expressed concern that no one on the Facility Committee toured a building designed by ICON or built by Johnson Controls.
Feltman outlined several reasons why the Facilities Committee felt Construction Engineers was the best fit to be construction manager for the project.
He cited a 2-3 percent savings in fees, the firm’s 35 years as a general contractor and the fact Construction Engineers is local, being based out of Grand Forks.
He also said ICON and Construction Engineers have worked well together on several projects in the past.
“We believe we’ll get the end project we need at the best value,” Kingsbury said.
The first meeting of the facility committee is scheduled for Oct. 30 in the Grafton High School library. The first design committee meeting is scheduled for Nov. 6. Times will be determined. Maus said that all facility and design committee meetings will be open to the public.