A crowd of approximately 40 gathered on Wednesday evening, Sept. 23, for the second of three walk-throughs and informational meetings planned in lead up to the Boscobel Area School District’s November 3 referendum vote. The referendum seeks approval to allow the school district to sell bonds for $6.9 million to fund capital and energy savings projects.
The crowd included a few school board members and school staff, as well as interested citizens. Personnel from H&H Energy explained the projects and financing.
H&H Energy’s Josh Kaurich broke the projects down into five parts – lighting and audio-visual equipment, heating and cooling (HVAC), plumbing, life safety and communication, and the building envelope (external structure). Kaurich also went over the school website, which offers a page for the referendum with a tax impact calculator, FAQ, and a form for asking questions.
Brian Brewer with Robert W. Baird & Co. explained financing and tax impacts. Brewer noted that the tax impact calculations included governmental aid the school would receive to offset the expense of the projects. That aid would be applied toward diminishing the tax impact to Boscobel property owners. The tax increase, should the referendum pass, would begin with the tax statements for the 2016-2017 school year. The tax increase is estimated at $1.18 per $1,000 of assessed equalized property value.
After the presentation, Kaurich asked attendees if they were comfortable with feeling that they understood the scope of the work. One person in the crowd said he was not.
“I don’t feel comfortable with what’s going on,” said Mark Knowles. “The bus depot roof is not in the contract.”
Knowles pointed out several other discrepancies he had found when reading through the contract and comparing it with the documents provided for the referendum.
Kaurich explained that the contract was amendable by the school and H&H Energy. Kaurich described failure to list the bus depot roof in the contract as an oversight and also noted that some IT work in the contract had already been completed since the school could not wait on the referendum.
“So what you’re saying is that in a 42-page contract (with the district), some things are missing and some things are no longer relevant?” Knowles asked.
“No, that’s not what I am saying,” Kaurich responded. “What I am saying is that we can amend the contract as needed with the district. I think it sounds like you should have been on the team that helped formulate the contract.”
No bid contract?
In a letter sent to the school board last week, Knowles claims that in a private meeting with school board members last week, board president Todd Miller claimed there were no bids for the $6.9 million project. He also alleges that the contract signed on June 16, 2015 between the Boscobel School District and H&H Energy Services was a no bid contract which goes against the transparent competitive bidding process required by state statutes 62.15 and 66.0901—which state that any construction project over $25,000 done to a school building require competitive bidding.
“It is entirely possible that someone besides H & H could do the entire project for much less, but this will not be known because the school board failed to seek any competitive bids for the project,” Knowles wrote. “As a result, the taxpayers may end up paying a much greater price than necessary.”
In response to Knowles’ questions at the walk-through, Kaurich offered to meet with Knowles to go over the contract and to discuss the project in greater depth one-on-one.
Mary Curtis asked about the timeline for work being completed if the referendum passes the vote.
“If this passes in November, we can begin some of the work in winter, with the bulk of the work being done in the summer when it won’t interfere with students and classes,” Kaurich responded.
Kaurich explained that being able to contract spring and summer work during the winter was an advantage for the district, since getting bids in the spring means most contractors have already begun booking their work for the season.
The final walk-through and information meeting for the referendum is planned for Wednesday, Oct. 28 at the Boscobel High School. The walk-through begins at 6 p.m. and the informational meeting at 7 p.m.
Related article: Referendum projects examined, part 2 Exterior and Plumbing