Facilities committee interviews architects

Thursday, June 10, 2004
Cleve Reeves of Bahr Vermeer Haecker of Lincoln displays an aerial map showing the footprint of the existing North Ward Elementary and the proposed renovation and expansion project into McCook's new single-site elementary. Reeves showed how the sun and northerly and southerly breezes will impact all the classrooms.

Members of the facilities committee of the McCook Public Schools board of education will recommend one architectural firm to the full board Monday, formulating their opinion after four hours of interviews Wednesday afternoon and evening.

Committee members Jim Coady, Greg Larson and Mike Gonzales listened as representatives of four architectural firms made their sales pitches, each explaining why their firm should be selected to design the renovation and expansion project that will turn North Ward into a single-site elementary facility.

Superintendent Dr. Don Marchant and construction manager Russell Houlden of Sampson Construction sat in on the interviews.

The firms interviewed were W Design Associates of McCook and Hastings; Bahr Vermeer Haecker of Lincoln; and Beringer Ciaccio Dennell Mabrey and DLR Group of Omaha. A fifth firm, Alley Poyner of Omaha, declined the interview opportunity.



W Design architect and engineer Dave Wilson and Greg Wolford, both of McCook, told committee members their firm's working relationship with McCook schools would be a definite advantage in delivering the renovated school on time and on budget.

"Another firm will have to start from scratch," Wolford said. "We're half-way there."

W Design has been hired by the school in the past to study the district's facilities, and for the past 18 months has been involved in the district's search for solutions to the space, usability and security issues of its elementary facilities. It was Wilson's concept drawing of a renovated and expanded North Ward that bond issue supporters used in their campaign for the project last spring.

"We can hit the ground running," Wolford said. "And that is essential to meeting this work schedule."

Wolford said his company is comfortable with the $5.8 million budget. "The initial budget -- we wrote it," Wolford said.

Wilson said the architect needs to be accessible to the project, to the board of education and to the construction manager, to insure that the project runs smoothly. Wilson said W Design has offered the construction manager firm, Sampson Construction, an office in the W Design building in McCook, for the duration of the project.

"We have a vested interest in this project," Wolford said. "We live here. We own homes here. We have children who go to school here."



Jim Berg of Bahr Vermeer Haecker of Lincoln said, "Whatever we do needs to react to the needs of McCook."

Berg said his firm's engineers and architects would familiarize themselves with McCook's needs by conducting a four-day "on-site schematic design charrette," an intense, highly-detailed, decision-making design workshop. "At the end of a week, we'll have a good, solid direction," Berg said.

Berg also suggested a "shop drawing summit," a one-day approval of all the project's shop drawings.

Gary Loop, an engineer with Engineering Technologies Inc. of Omaha and Lincoln, which is associated with BVH, said the charrette and the summit will help speed the project along. Loop is a native of McCook and a 1971 graduate of McCook Senior High.

Marty Kasl, another ETI engineer, who with Loop explained mechanical and electrical options, is a 1986 graduate of McCook Senior High.

Berg said his company has worked with Sampson Construction in the past, on fast-track and modified fast-track projects like McCook's. "We know there is no slack in the construction schedule," he said. "We are committed to meeting this schedule."

Berg said he is comfortable with McCook's budget. "We will do as much as we can with the money available," he said, explaining that his firm will work with the construction manager to make educated decisions on options and choices -- "not what we have to eliminate" -- to meet the budget.

Berg told committee members his firm prefers working with local contractors whenever possible.



Architect Robert Mabrey told committee members the existing North Ward facility has some unique Frank Lloyd Wright and prairie style details "that will be fun to work with" and incorporate into the renovation/expansion project.

Mabrey presented a detailed calendar -- starting in June 2004 and ending with the completion of construction August 2005 -- that included an intense three-to-four day "charrette" designed to "draw, review, refine, draw, review, refine -- repeating the process until we have a happy client."

Mabrey advocated "open, honest communication -- working until we get it right." He also advocated using local contractors whenever possible. "We have no problem with using local contractors," Mabrey said. "That keeps the tax money in the community." He also said that using local contractors can help keep the project on schedule.

Mabrey told committee members his firm has designed so many schools, "we can do a school faster than any other project type."

Mabrey admitted the schedule is aggressive. He said, however, he has told other clients, "If you can keep up with the decision-making, we can bring this in on schedule."


Architect Patrick Phelan of DLR Group, Omaha, showed committee members a detailed "to-do" list that outlined the responsibilities of his firm, of the construction manager and of the school board.

Phelan said he sees the architect and the construction manager as partners and as "advisors to the board." One of the schools' most important responsibilities, he said, is to keep the public informed.

Phelan, too, recommended a charrette, "a concentrated effort with lots of decisions in a very short time."

Stephen Burgess said the charrette will allow the architect, construction manager and board of education to "burn through lots of decisions quickly. We'll build consensus and hit the ground running with construction documents."

Phelan said the charrette will help everyone make decisions early on, "the key to the aggressive construction schedule."

Phelan said DLR has worked with Sampson Construction on the the fast-track Haymarket Park project, and on efforts to repair tornado damages at Norris schools. DLR's experience with educational facilities and with the construction manager concept will allow decisions to be made in a very timely manner, Phelan said. "With this tight time frame, the construction manager approach is definitely the way to go," he said.

Facilities committee chairman Greg Larson said the committee may meet a couple times before the regular board meeting Monday, when the committee will make a recommendation to the board.

The board meets at 5:30 p.m., in the conference room at the junior high.

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