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SPOTLIGHT
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Board sets procedure for accepting construction bids

Published on -8/25/2014, 4:46 PM

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By Tiffany Roney

Abilene Reflector-Chronicle

(MCT) The Abilene school board approved two types of plans at Friday's meeting: diagram-based architectural plans, and discussion-based process plans for how to decide the bids.

Representatives from HTK Architects and SBB Engineering in Topeka and Coonrod & Associates in Wichita spoke with the USD 435 Board of Education at noon at the district office.

For the process of selecting which contractor to award each project bid to, board member Gregg Noel said he would prefer to leave it to a professional -- namely, Keith Blackburn of HTK and Scot Wolfington of Coonrod.

"If we have two bids come in close, and you've worked with them before, we're trusting you and Keith's judgment," Noel said to Wolfington.

Wolfington said the phenomenon of going with a higher bid has happened before.

"Sometimes, we'll say to the lowest bidder, 'We're not accepting your bid because 1) we don't think you can do this in time, or 2) there's something about your company that excludes you," Wolfington said.

"What I've done in certain projects -- and we're willing to do this here -- is we didn't award it until all the bids were presented to the board," he said.

Wolfington said these presentations would consist of him listing off the low bidders, as well those who weren't especially low but have other compelling reasons to be chosen.

"Personally, I think that's what I'd be comfortable with," board member Mark Wilson said. "I want to know the information. We're paying you to do that anyway."

Wolfington had the same opinion.

"I want to do that, too," he said.

Blackburn offered one caveat to holding presentations before awarding the bid. He said the process would require extra board meetings -- one for every project.

Superintendent Denise Guy said the bond issue includes 11 projects.

"You'll see that the elementary school has several projects, but that's only because we're trying to get it going," Steve Heilman, of HTK, said.

Blackburn said elementary school plans are holding steady with few changes since earlier meetings.

"We're making great progress, and we're right on schedule with where we need to be," he said.

For the high school, Wolfington said his team planned to combine the additions and renovations into just one package, but he expected plenty of bids on that package.

"I'll put the bids on a spreadsheet to show where all the bids were, and you'll see that beforehand, so you'll know if I'm going to accept the lowest bid or not," Wolfington said. "It's pretty rare that we don't accept the lowest bid, but it has happened. It happened at Chapman on a few things. But it's pretty rare."

Guy confirmed to the board that Wolfington would share his best judgment and the board would award the bid after reaching an agreement based upon the bid amounts and Wolfington's recommendation.

The board had plenty of discussion on special board meetings coming up, including probably a two- to three-hour Saturday session in the next two weeks to "walk through" the entire layout and plans for the high school.

"We'll work with your schedule -- just let me know," Blackburn said.

As board members began to discuss how to plan a special meeting in the midst of their schedules, Wilson, who is a farmer, jumped in with a quip.

"Tell me when we're getting a couple inches of rain, and I'll pencil you in," he said with a smile.

(c)2014 Abilene Reflector-Chronicle

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