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Mount Greylock School Building Committee Moves to Next Phase
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
06:20AM / Saturday, March 26, 2016
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Mount Greylock Superintendent Douglas Dias, School Building Committee Chairman Mark Schiek and Co-Chairwoman Paula Consolini review minutes from a prior meeting.

Trip Elmore of Dore & Whittier explains the next steps in the process to the School Building Committee.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock School Building Committee on Thursday discussed the next steps it needs to take to keep the $64.8 million project on schedule.

After taking about five minutes to celebrate the success of last week's vote in Lanesborough to authorize the renovation and addition to the 60-year-old junior-senior high school, the committee quickly pivoted to the work it still needs to do before — and even after — shovels go in the ground this summer.

"Now the committee gets to go on to the hard work," Chairman Mark Schiek joked after several members took time to thank the project's proponents who advocated for successful debt exclusion votes in Williamstown and Lanesborough.

At a minimum, that means a more ambitious meeting schedule.

After not meeting since Jan. 28, Schiek told his colleagues on Thursday they can expect to meet every three weeks to finalize the design plan, finalize the contract with the district's construction manager, certify subcontractors and track the "value engineering" process as the committee strives to keep the project under budget.

The committee took two substantive votes on Thursday night: to recommend the School Committee hire Turner Construction to coordinate preconstruction work in the project's earliest phase and have the district's superintendent negotiate extended contracts with its owner's project manager and architect.

The School Committee last year selected Turner to be the project's construction manager at risk for the then-prospective project. The New York City-based firm was hired to do a cost estimate and a timeline for the project out of the feasibility study budget the towns approved in 2014.

Trip Elmore of Dore & Whittier Construction, the owner's project manager, told the committee on Thursday that the school district needs to negotiate and finalize an extensive contract with Turner to manage the full project, but in the interim, a $165,000 purchase order can secure Turner's services to schedule items, conduct design reviews with the architect and similar work.

"We have a number from them: $168,000," Elmore said. "We had a budget of $165,000 that was approved, and they were happy to take the $3,000 hit. We can hire them for preconstruction, and that gives us time [to finalize the full contract].

"I can assure you, the $165,000 will not cover their cost. In the industry, it's called 'free con,' not 'pre con.' … It's a loss leader."

Meanwhile, the district and Turner can finalize the language of the full contract that will take the project through its planned fall 2018 completion.

Elmore reminded the committee that its request for proposals to seek a CM at risk included a draft of the contract, so Turner already implicitly agreed to the broad strokes when it submitted its proposal.

Jim Liddick, one of three Turner representatives at Thursday's meeting, reinforced that point.

"Internally, we've reviewed the contract," he said. "The contract that's in there is very similar to the other two [Massachusetts School Building Authority] projects we've done. The changes we've made in the past have generally met little resistance."

The School Building Committee agreed unanimously to recommend the School Committee OK the $165,000 purchase order for preconstruction work at a special meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

The School Committee also will be asked to name a couple of negotiations committees — one to look at the more than 100-page contract with Turner and another to finalize new deals with the district's OPM and architect.

Dore & Whittier will be offered an extension on its existing contract, initiated when the district entered the Massachusetts School Building Authority's feasibility study phase. Normally, a similar extension would apply to the architect who did the initial design work, but Design Partnership of Cambridge last year merged with New York-based Perkins Eastman. The district will need to sign a new contract with Perkins Eastman, specifying that the design team remain the same for the sake of continuity; one member of that team, Daniel Colli, attended Thursday's meeting.

The SBC recommended to the School Committee that Mount Greylock Superintendent Douglas Dias be named to lead the group that reviews the Dore & Whittier and Perkins Eastman contracts. Schiek volunteered to head the group tasked with poring over the Turner contract.

Subcommittees will play a big role in the project going forward, Elmore explained.

One is needed to review the subcontractors who apply to be considered for work on the project.

Elmore explained that there are 18 different trades — electrical, mechanical, flooring, etc. — that must follow a state proscribed process to participate in the publicly funded building project. Before any jobs are put to bid, the district has to generate a pool of qualified subcontractors, who will submit their qualifications to the district for review.

"The committee that evaluates [the applicants] is made up of one representative of the designer and three reps from the awarding authority," Elmore said. "One representative of the awarding authority shall be the OPM. You can also have the CM at risk be part of the team. What I need are two representatives from the owner."

He said he wants the prequalification review committee established by the middle of April to keep the project moving forward.

He also said the project will need a subcommittee to look at potential change orders that come up in between School Building Committee meetings. Waiting for such meetings, which must be publicly warned and have a quorum of the committee, can bog down the process.

"We will need someone at the weekly [construction team] meeting who can sign off on some amount of money," Elmore said. "If, for example, there is a $3,000 change order for a door, and we need the door for safety reasons, I need someone [from the district] to say the argument was reasonably presented and, for expediting time, someone needs to be there to sign.

"At the monthly update [to the School Building Committee], we will have a list of things approved at the weekly meetings. Typically, it might be one change order per week for a small amount of money."

From Day One, the School Building Committee has emphasized that time is of the essence to hit its target of moving classes into the new addition spring 2018. Elmore said expedited change-order authority will help meet that goal.

Another oft-stated goal of the committee: bringing the project in below the $64.8 million budget.

Elmore had some good news on that front, Thursday, reporting that because the SBC did not need to use all of its contingency budget, the district has saved $36,487 from the $850,000 feasibility study budget.

On the subject of financing, Hugh Daley of the SBC's finance working group reported that the group anticipates floating $4 million worth of bonds to fund work anticipated through the end of the year.

"At the end of 2016, we'll begin bonding for the bulk of the project," Daley said.

In the meantime, he said, the working group expects to get information to both towns so they can work the initial bond payments into their budgets in time for annual town meetings — in May in Williamstown and June in Lanesborough.

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