District Moving Forward On School Projects

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On Oct. 3,, the Payson Unified School District Governing Board held a special meeting to receive updated cost estimates for the two largest projects in the construction bond: Julia Randall Elementary School and Rim Country Middle School. The news was good. Project management firm, Pinnacle One, reported that significant savings had been identified and placed both projects well within the bond limit.

On Sept. 17, Pinnacle One had shared a not-so-optimistic projection with the Board. At that meeting, the first estimates, based on architectural schematic designs, showed a deficit of over $3.5 million. How did the projects' bottom line change so dramatically without changing the scope of the projects? The answer lies in Construction Manager at Risk.

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Casey O'Brien

CMAR is a construction delivery method in which a construction manager/general contractor is brought on during the design phase to be part of the design team and to propose a Guaranteed Maximum Price at or toward the end of the design development phase. If the owner accepts the Guaranteed Maximum Price, this contractor will construct the facility.

In this process, the builder and architect work together from the start of the project. The construction management firm, Pinnacle One, hired by PUSD, acts as an expert adviser and advocate as well as a facilitator with the architect and the builder.

Unlike the traditional design, bid, build process, CMAR is dynamic. Up until the point the District is provided a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP), value engineering and cost revisions occur on a regular basis. The advantage of this method is that the District knows exactly what is being built and has detailed accounting of all facets of the project, as it moves from schematic design, design development and finally to construction drawings and the GMP.

In the two weeks between board meetings, W.E. O'Neil, the building contractor, both architectural firms and Pinnacle One met to identify savings through value engineering and updated subcontractor estimates.

The net result was nearly $2 million in savings. The Board also authorized the use of architectural, 40-year shingles, in place of metal roofing and consolidation of the Julia Randall gym and cafeteria into one, multipurpose facility. Another $1 million in savings will be realized by making these changes. In consideration of community needs/use, the Board agreed to maintain a regulation-size gym at Julia Randall. The Rim Country Middle School project, with bond interest and anticipated funding from the State School Facilities Board, should also realize cost savings, moving the bottom line for all projects significantly into the black.

As we move forward in the design development phase of the projects, we hope to identify additional savings, ensuring that the community obtains the most for its tax dollars.

The schedule for the projects is on track. Our goal is to have both the new Julia Randall Elementary and the remodel of Rim Country Middle School completed in time for the start of school in August 2009.

Recently, I met with building and planning officials form the Town of Payson to discuss easements for Julia Randall Elementary and our request that the town waive building and impact fees.

Attorneys for the district and the Town are crafting intergovernmental agreements that will go before the Council, tentatively at its first November meeting. I am optimistic that these agreements, which will certainly directly and indirectly benefit the children of Payson, will be ratified.

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