The Beloit School Board approved a timeline for work to be done at Robinson, Converse and Merrill elementary schools and Beloit Memorial High School at its Tuesday evening meeting.
After the $70 million referendum passed April 3, Superintendent Steve McNeal unrolled a rough timeline for construction at the nine schools and made recommendations on which projects would accept only local contractors.
The architects will be putting together requests for proposals, which will be sent out in the next couple of weeks, according to McNeal.
“We are going to limit the proposals to only local contractors for Merrill, Robinson and Converse,” McNeal said.
He explained the referendum projects will commence in three phases. McNeal noted the district must comply with prevailing wage requirements. Wisconsin has three separate prevailing wage rate laws governing different type of public works projects. These laws mandate most workers employed on public works projects must receive wages which are representative of the wages normally paid to workers on similar private projects in an area, according to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
These laws were enacted to discourage the awarding of public works contracts, according to the department, to employers who might underbid local employers by paying their workers substantially less than normally received by workers in an area. In practice, prevailing wage laws generally require rates near union scale.
Phase I will include the high school swimming pool and tennis courts, with construction starting mid to late summer. The project is open to both local and outside bids.
“Local contractors could be interested in it, but we think that it will be a less attractive contract for our local contractors than the renovation of the elementary school, and difficult for our local contractors to take on two projects at a time,” he said.
Phase 1 also will include Merrill, Robinson and Converse, with the district accepting only local bids. McNeal noted the ideal scenario would be to have three local contractors, with each one working on one school.
Phase 2 will include converting the old swimming pool area into a fitness center, and the two intermediate schools — the to-be-built Southeast Intermediate School and Cunningham. Construction would start this fall or in the early winter for the intermediate schools, and the conversion of the pool to a fitness center would happen as soon as the new pool is built.
“The two intermediate schools won’t be local bid only, because none of our local vendors will have the bonding to do them because they are $16-$18 million projects. However, the award winner will most likely demonstrate the ability to employ and to subcontract locally and may partner with a local contractor,” McNeal said.
Phase 3 will start next June and will include Todd, Gaston and Hackett. The board hasn’t decided how they will proceed with these. McNeal said the board is waiting to see how the Phase 1 projects go.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the board also voted to put together job description for a construction manager to be paid for by the district, separate from the referendum funds. The construction manager would likely be a retired person with extensive construction, engineering or architectural experience who would keep tabs on all the projects. The construction manager would report to McNeal and Director of Building and Grounds Jeff Jacobson.
During the meeting Larry Bray of Bray Architects had advised against having a construction management company, as it would increase overall costs which would take away from bricks and mortar.
“With the quality of contractors in the area, we have a talent pool to make sure we come out on time and on budget,” Bray said.
The board also voted to put together a construction committee composed of McNeal, Jacobson, Board President Shannon Scharmer, and board members John Winkelmann and Michael Ramsdail. The board would also include some community members and would meet every two weeks, or as needed to discuss the construction process.
The board will vote on all the members at its upcoming meeting.
Lisa Voisin, of the investment firm Robert. W. Baird, said the district is looking into obtaining low interest federal stimulus bonds for certain projects, with some having interest rates as low as zero percent. McNeal said it could result in less money paid by taxpayers.
Before the meeting closed, McNeal said renovations to McNeel, Aldrich and Beloit Memorial High School also will be done in the next several years.
“This (the referendum) isn’t the only gig in town,” he said.