With three of the four major building projects from the $98M bond levy currently under way, it is important to ask, “How did we get here”? Have the projects produced good results? And has the process of the selection of design consultants been carried out honestly, transparently, and with accountability? I, of course have my opinion on the matter and after reading this expose you can form your own.
The story begins 2009 when then GFPS Superintendent Cheryl Crawley established what was first called the Facilities Long Range Task Force and for brevity what I will call the Facilities Task Force, FTF. After officially appointing a hand-picked group of local people without soliciting for anyone who was interested in serving on the committee, the new committee members were loaded on a big yellow school bus for a tour of all the schools in the District. Principals of two local architectural firms, (LPW, CTA) were chosen to serve on the FTF at the exclusion of other local architectural firms. One representative from the local engineering firm, (TDH) was also chosen to serve on FTF, at the exclusion of other local engineering firms.
After several meetings, the committee produced recommendations for improvements and repairs to the schools and recommended that Great Falls High School be dealt with individually since it needed more extensive work. And do you think a bigger budget and a bigger architectural fee may have been part of that recommendation?
“After several meetings, the committee produced recommendations for improvements and repairs to the schools and recommended that Great Falls High School be dealt with individually since it needed more extensive work. And do you think a bigger budget and a bigger architectural fee may have been part of that recommendation?”
The FTF Committee’s work also resulted in the District awarding an $8.3M Energy Savings (ESCO) contact for retrofitting all District schools with energy saving features, (non-competitively awarded), to the McKinstry Company, a company that one of the FTF members worked for. (Note: Three ESCO companies were invited to interview for the proposed contract. The other two firms did not have employees who were appointed to serve on the FTF.)
McKinstry, the firm awarded the ESCO contract, subcontracted much of the architectural and engineering work to local firms and guess who benefited from those subcontracts?
On February 22, 2010 Superintendent Crawley presented a Board Agenda Action Item to accept the FTF Committee’s recommendation to allocate $150,000 from the District Maintenance Deferred Schedule for a Great Falls High Master Planning project.
At this point, the District decided to advertise through a Request for Qualifications (RFQ), but having no experience writing the advertisement; remember the District’s pronouncement that the District hadn’t built a new school, or solicited professional planning services in over 50 years, they hired the TFT member’s firm (TDH) to write it and paid them handsomely.
Editor’s Note: A Groundbreaking ceremony for construction for Great Falls High is scheduled for Monday, May 21 at 3:30 PM. Conveniently when most folks have to be at work. If you can be there I’m sure protestors are welcome!