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District 518 nearing ALC/Gymnastics bid approval

WORTHINGTON -- The District 518 Area Learning Center/Gymnastics facility, the district's short and long-term projects action plan, pay raises and district farmland were just a few of the items discussed during this week's board of education opera...

District 518 Administrative Building
District 518 Administrative Building (Tim Middagh / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON - The District 518 Area Learning Center/Gymnastics facility, the district’s short and long-term projects action plan, pay raises and district farmland were just a few of the items discussed during this week’s board of education operations and instructional committee meetings.

ALC/Gymnastics Chris Ziemer, the ICS Consulting member assigned to the project, was on hand during Tuesday’s operations committee meeting to provide an update on the ALC/Gymnastics facility.

District 518 board member Mike Harberts inquired how long into the planning phases it was known the entire cost of the facility would likely be more than $13 million.

“It’s quite shell shocking to me,” Harberts said.

The approximate $13.1 million price tag, which includes additional soft costs beyond the budgeted construction estimate, was known for the better duration of the project, Ziemer said. However, of the five bids received by the Jan. 18 deadline, two came in within the board specified $10.5 million construction-only budget, Ziemer reported.

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After an error was discovered in the apparent lowest bid, The Joseph Company Inc. subsequently withdrew its bid and Zeimer recommended awarding the contract bid to the second lowest bidder, the Sunkota Construction Inc. of Sioux Falls, S.D.

The $10.3 million recommended contract could be further negotiated, but Minnesota state statute prohibits that process from beginning prior to formally accepting and entering the contract as is, Ziemer said.

“We can ask a contractor to look at items to save money,” Ziemer said. “That would require board award at next Tuesday’s meeting until we could do any adjustments further with value engineering or anything the district would so choose to pursue.”  

Superintendent John Landgaard said the soft costs would be covered through additional funding to cover the cost of the entire project.

Before reaching a recommendation, Harberts expressed that while the bids seem reasonable, he is “a little out in the weeds” regarding the project specifics.

“I asked questions about this project several months ago and none of them were answered - actually, most of them were ignored, in fact,” he said.

The operations committee recommended approving a contract with Sunkota Construction for full board approval.

District action plan The operations committee took another look at a District 518 action plan that lays out various potential projects and their status through 2025.

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The document - which Landgaard described as a living document - was presented as a reminder of the identified projects and a precursor to an anticipated board work session in the next couple months.

“It gives you a gauge as to what’s getting accomplished and what’s moving forward,” Landgaard told operations committee members.

Some of the items identified for the 2018-2019 school year include a resolution for community education and preschool center, implementation of a phase one sports/recreation plan, establishment of a district technology call center, various improvements to Trojan Field and  construction of a projected $1 million soccer fields/complex and new softball fields currently targeted for the 2019 fiscal year.

Regardless of the outcome from Tuesday’s bond referendum, the current Trojan field would require some updates, Landgaard said. However, the extent of those updates would likely depend on Tuesday’s result and to what caliber - middle school or high school - competition it would need to facilitate for in the future, committee members discussed.

Many of the identified proposed projects would be funded through long-term facility maintenance or capital reserve funds, Landgaard said. He noted that past boards have put emphasis and priority on addressing academics needs first.

“We need to take care of the academic side before we address the athletic and extracurricular,” he said.

Salary negotiations The board will soon need to set parameters for contract negotiations.

Landgaard said the various individuals or groups entitled to contract review and negotiations include: administrators, attendance officer, accountant, activities coordinator, district office staff, database network specialists, technology personnel, director of management services, director of teaching and learning, payroll coordinator, extended online learning manager, food service director and staff, MSEA group (custodial, paraprofessionals, secretaries), parent liaisons and tech integration services.

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Landgaard said he and District 518 Director of Management Services Dave Skog typically do the wage research and make a recommendation to the committee responsible for each category. The board ultimately determine the parameters for compensation.

The negotiations process needs to be complete before July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal  year.

District farmland The buildings and grounds committee also discussed its direction forward after its approved bid for tillable farmland fell through.

According to District 518 Director of Management Services Dave Skog, the district made numerous attempts to contact and have the individual sign a lease agreement and was ultimately informed at the last moment the young farmer did not want to farm the land after all.

In December, the district approved leasing its 111 tillable acres to the highest bidder, Caleb Fellows, for $217 per acre.

The buildings and grounds committee weighed whether to automatically award it to the next highest bidder, Matt Widboom, or to advertise for and accept new bid proposals.  

The debate stemmed from Widboom dropping his original $200 per-acre bid to $180 in light of updated market figures. The $180 per-acre bid was still higher than the last bid of $151 per acre, but some members questioned whether it was best practice to negotiate further with Widboom or reopen the bidding process.

Depending on Widboom’s response, the buildings and grounds committee reached the consensus of recommending for full board approval awarding Widboom the tillable acres at $200 per acre or reopening the bidding process if that agreement is not reached.

Related Topics: AREA LEARNING CENTER
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