By Kayla Barnes
DARLINGTON - The Darlington Community School Board of Education approved McKinstry, a full-service design, build, operate and maintain firm from Madison, as the Energy Efficiency Contractor for their Act 32 projects, but not without some opposition.
Aaron Rittenhouse of Johnson Controls spoke during special appearance asking the board to “pause for one week” on their decision to go with McKinstry and to allow Johnson Controls and McKinstry to come back with new numbers for a better comparison and a clear set of where they are going with the project.
The Building and Grounds Committee chose McKinstry out of bids from Johnson Controls, Hoffman Planning, Design & Construction, Inc. and Nexus Solutions.
At the meeting Monday night Feb. 20, Rittenhouse wanted the board to consider that if the board would choose Johnson Controls, at least 40% of the construction labor that would be deployed on the project would be from Lafayette County or surrounding counties. He stated that local workers, like Paul Berg who was present and is a Johnson Controls technician, would be employed.
“There was really only one element that was considered at the recommendation that came out of the Building Committee, as I understand it, and that was the fee structure. There are lots of elements that go into this very complicated project you are getting ready to embark on,” Rittenhouse said.
Rittenhouse asked the board to consider some data pertaining to helping the school obtain no more than a 0.4% interest rate increase over the period of the $4,000,000 loan, completing 40% of the AIA (American Institute of Architects) documents that show the steps going to be taken during the project in just 40 days, providing a 10-year warranty as part of the project, and stating that they have invested over 100 hours with their partners and local contractors on this project and are the right associates for this project.
School board president Aaron Wolfe stated that McKinstry was the low bidder at the Building and Grounds Committee meeting with a 7% fee on the facility projects and a 4% fee on the roof part of the project. Johnson Controls bid a 7.5% fee on the facility with additional fees and a 7.5% fee on the roof. Representatives from McKinstry, Ben Terpening and Brent Schmidt were present at the meeting. High School Principal Aaron Lancaster said he was quite comfortable with McKinstry and had received very good referrals from other school districts they have worked with.
Terpening commented that McKinstry would like to keep everything as close to local as possible and use people that the school is comfortable with and make sure they would be keeping to the budget and timelines.
Rittenhouse added that Johnson Controls has done their “homework” on the project and is ready to help.
Board member Matt Wilson asked if the items Rittenhouse had stated were submitted in their bid given to building and grounds. He stated some were but not all.
“All I’m asking is pause for one week. Let both McKinstry and Johnson Controls come back with some plus or minus 10% numbers and a defined scope rather than predicating this decision on a single element,” Rittenhouse said.
“As a board and an administration, there were other pieces that they looked at. I don’t think its fair to say this was based on just one piece. And at the end of the day they came in with the cheapest bid,” Wilson relayed.
Rittenhouse’s rebuttal was, “Yes but with an undefined scope.”
Wilson made the motion to approved McKinstry as the Energy Efficiency Contractor with Bob Hermanson seconding. The motion was passed unanimously.
The board also discussed a resolution authorizing the borrowing of not more than $4,000,000. Wolfe stated that this was required by law in order to borrow money under Act 32. He was hoping to have in the resolution specifying that the debt payment amount would not exceed the school districts current debt payment amount. He wished for the public to understand that with this debt payment being less than the current debt payment, there will be no increase on the tax levy. Wolfe stated that the schools attorney’s had not had time to look over the resolution to make the changes and have it ready in time for publication in the Republican Journal.
Wilson also had the same concern.
“I just want it clear with everybody that our intent in this resolution is that the amount we levy will not be more than we currently levy for debt services,” Wilson explained.
Other members of the board were concerned with waiting on publishing the resolution, as it needs to be public for 30 days. They discussed stating in the motion that it would not exceed the current debt payment amount or adding that statement to the title of the resolution.
Judy Huntington made a motion to approve the resolution as presented with Hermanson seconded.
“If I approve this, then we go forward and then in a month from now, if the interest rate isn’t what we think it’s going to be, but we still want the money, then we are going to talk ourselves into having that debt service payment more than it currently is,” Wilson stated.
Wolfe said we have a consensus that the board doesn’t want to exceed the current debt payment. The motion passed 8-1, with Wilson opposed.
The Darlington Community School Board of Education also approved and accepted:
-Baird’s agreement for services to secure funds for the Energy Efficiency projects. In order for the board to secure the loans for the project, they need help from a third party. The initial agreement changed and they dropped their fee to $8,000. That is a fixed fee. There was some confusion in wording on the agreement and a motion was made to accept the agreement with the dropped fee and removing a sentence that was causing confusion. Hermanson made the motion with Zuberbuhler seconding. The motion passed.
-a donation from the Sieg Foundation of $600 to place a bottle filler on a DHS water fountain.
-a $600 donation from the Optimist Club to place a bottle filler on a DHS water fountain.
-a donation from Dianne Osterday, on behalf of the Class of 1966, for a bench valued at $963.70.
-requests to volunteer as DHS assistant Track and Field coaches from Kyle Johnson, Mariah McMullen and Hailey McGowan and as a volunteer DHS Softball coach from Todd Chiaverotti.
-the resignation from Lisa Braley as a Special Education Assistant.
-the sale of the 2004 Ford E-150 van.
-waiving the Extra Curricular Activities Policy for the DHS Music Program to hold a Spring Concert on Wednesday, May 17.