School board hires KC architectural firm
Tonganoxie school board members Monday voted to hire an architectural firm, on a contingency basis, to look at the district's building needs and lead it through construction projects.
Board members followed Superintend Richard Erickson's recommendation to hire the DLR Group, Overland Park. The firm has been building and renovating schools for more than 30 years.
In February, James French, a DLR architect, and Mitch Hanna, who works with DLR's business development, explained their process to board members.
The firm will begin by surveying existing facilities, talking to school administrators, faculty and staff about building needs, taking the curriculum into account, looking at a community's demographics and surveying community members.
After needs are assessed and building plans drawn up, DLR will lead the district through a bond election. If an election fails, the firm will continue working with the district until a bond election passes.
At the February meeting, French said schools don't pay anything upfront.
"What we offer to school districts is that we will defer our fee until we pass a bond issue," French said.
The firm will charge the district 6 percent on new construction, and about 6 percent on renovation.
French said he district's timeline will be fluid.
"We would prefer to take it as slow as needed to get you where you're wanting to go," French said. "If it's two years, fine, we will set you up on a two-year schedule."
Erickson said Tonganoxie's timeline would be longer.
"We'll develop a plan over the next three to four years," Erickson said.
Board member Richard Dean asked what it would cost if, after completing the study, the district would decide not to work with DLR Group.
"Ninety-five dollars an hour," Erickson said. He estimated that it would run about $35,000 for preliminary studies and plans.
"There's always a risk there," Erickson said. "But in this district we've got to have some facilities improvement. It may not be a new building out on the 80 acres it may not be a new building anywhere. But we've got to remodel and refurbish. If it's not a big project, it will be several smaller projects."
Board members expressed hesitancy, referring to the state's projected $700 million revenue shortfall and the uncertainty regarding the amount of state aid school districts would be receiving.
Dean said, "I'm not against it, but I do have reservations at this time. If we agree to do this, we really need to make an effort to let everybody know that unless a bond issue passes down the road we don't pay anything."
Rick Lamb said he was hesitant to make a commitment.
"I think we do need to understand that we are obligating ourselves in some way, whether now or down the road," Lamb said. "There is an obligation there. Enrollment and the economy will drive what we do in the next few years."
Lamb recommended that the process move slowly, and said the board should consider the effect of a bond issue on taxpayers who live on fixed incomes.
Dean said he thought the board would have input as to when the next stages of the process would take place.
The board voted 6-0 to hire the DLR Group. Board president Bob DeHoff was absent.