The Chagrin Falls Board of Education continued to discuss its plans for a new transportation and facilities building on the Gurney Elementary School campus at its Monday meeting.

Chris Smith and Ryan Schmidt of ThenDesign Architecture gave the board an overview of delivery models for construction projects available to public entities and gave a proposal of a phased project that gives the board more flexibility based on budget and timing Monday. Mr. Schmidt had presented a conceptual plan for a $1.65 million to $2 million project including a new 6,000-square-foot building, repaving, new fencing and bus block heaters at the May 15 meeting.

Mr. Smith said of the delivery methods available, he recommended the district engage in the construction manager at risk (CMR) model, where one architect is hired to develop the documents for the construction and then the board selects a construction manager in a competitive process based on qualifications and price.

“I can’t remember a project in the last few years that hasn’t been construction manager at risk for school buildings and school facilities,” he said. “We recommend about 60 percent of that decision (on construction manager) being made on qualifications and about 40 percent based on price.”

Mr. Smith noted engaging with a CMR project would no longer make the project a public bid, allowing the construction manager to go to bid with prequalified bidders or contractors hand-selected by the district after setting a guaranteed maximum price. This could allow for more local involvement or a more quality project, he said.

“What this does is it basically allows the board of education to say the risk for the project is going to be on the architect and this CMR, so you would have two contracts, one with us and one with the construction manager,” he said. The construction manager would then competitively bid to individual trades with a guaranteed maximum price approved by the board.

Using the CMR model, Mr. Smith proposed three phases of the transportation and facilities building project. Phase one would entail ThenDesign completing half of the design work and using those documents to hire a construction manager with competitive pricing, phase two would involve finishing the design work and phase three would be construction.

“So at each one of those checkpoints, the board of education would say, ‘You know what, now’s not the right time for this project,’ or, ‘Boy it’s fitting in nicely; we’d like to move forward with that,’” Mr. Smith said. “So it would give you several checkpoints along the way to either go forward or not with the project.”

Board member Sharon Broz asked if hiring the construction manager before individual trades are bid out would encourage the construction manager to raise prices on the scope and quality of materials of work to increase profit on the project. Mr. Smith and Mr. Schmidt noted the architects will be putting together specifications and options and giving estimates along the way of what the project should be costing compared to what the construction manager is deciding.

“There has been one case where the construction manager’s prices were just too high and we dismissed them from the project,” Mr. Smith said.

Board President Kathryn Garvey asked for a timeline of when the best time to break ground on the project would be and what steps the board would need to take to get there. Mr. Schmidt said early spring, around April or May, would be the ideal time, and Mr. Smith said the board would need to approve a contract with ThenDesign around September to meet that target.

Mr. Schmidt said some of the lead time for the project could be shortened if the district engaged in the site survey, geotechnical and environmental studies as soon as possible, since that data would not change even if the board determined to wait for a year or two on starting the project.

Mrs. Garvey said the board’s capital planning committee will meet in September and dig into the district’s permanent improvement budget to have a better sense of how large of a budget the project can have. The board requested ThenDesign to provide a more detailed timeline of the project assuming a spring 2020 start to the construction, including when board action would be needed, and also requested several quotes for what the surveying work would cost the district.

Tim Tedeschi covers the Solon and West Geauga Board of Education, as well as statewide education issues, sports and features. He is a lifelong diehard Cleveland Indians fan and a graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University.

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