PBL board OKs construction management contract with Gilbane

By ROSS BROWN
bluehavanaross@gmail.com


PAXTON — Paxton-Buckley-Loda school board members approved a $22,341,772 construction management contract last Wednesday for the Clara Peterson Elementary School addition and PBL High School renovation projects.

Superintendent Cliff McClure told board members that some of the money is reimbursable, with construction manager Jim Arends of Chicago-based Gilbane noting that a majority of fees are for personnel costs.

The project, costing an estimated $31.4 million, would include a 63,400-square-foot addition to Clara Petersen Elementary School by 2019 to replace PBL Eastlawn School. Renovations are scheduled to take place at the high school during that time, as well. Voters approved a bond referendum for the project in the November election.

Board member Steve Pacey, a retired circuit judge, expressed concern that the board was waving its right to a jury trial in the event of litigation with Gilbane, which is overseeing the project.

“This is definitely not negotiable, but it also applies to third-parties,” Pacey said. “Even though Gilbane holds the contracts, if for some reason we get into a dispute with the (subcontractors), we’re still waving our right to a jury trial. We’re the ones that are going to have to hire experts that will support our side.”

Pacey said Gilbane might not want a litigation case in Ford County.

“Although I have great confidence in Ford County juries, I understand Gilbane. If the jury is made up of taxpayers for this project, they’re probably not going to find in Gilbane’s favor,” Pacey said.

McClure said the contract calls for a general contractor, which he said would represent the district in such cases.

“They don’t represent any company except their own,” McClure said. “So if there may be a problem, they’re representing us.”

Pacey, who voted unanimously with the rest of the board approving the project, said the chances of a litigation cases are slim. Usually, Pacey said, “nothing goes wrong, but I think if Mr. Arends or Mr. (Chuck) Reifsteck (of Gorski Reifsteck Architects, the architectural firm for the projects) end up litigating something, it is going to be unpleasant and costly.”

Project update
Reifsteck, an architect for Champaign-based Gorski Reifsteck Architects, said the first phase of the construction project — involving the school addition’s design and scope  — was almost complete.

“We had a meeting with the design team Monday (May 8), and there seems to be general agreement on the way things are laying out,” Reifsteck said.

Reifsteck said he would be taking a tour of another school building during the week.

“That school has the type of manual system we are looking at installing at Clara Peterson,” he said.

Noting that the design phase is almost complete, Reifsteck said board members should receive a final design at the June meeting.

“We’ve turned over documents to Jim Arends’ group. Hopefully, we’ll be back in a month for formal approval of the design,” Reifsteck said.

CEO course explained
Bob Dickey, vice president of marketing and economic development for Paxton-based Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative, gave board members details and information about a proposed “CEO course” that is being developed by the school district.

The course, designed by the Effingham-based Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship, involves five to 10 senior students each school year, taught by local business professionals. The course was developed in 2008 and has expanded to 43 communities in five states.

McClure said the course would be available in fall 2018 at the earliest.

Dickey said a four-person committee has been formed to explore the possibility of offering the course to both Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley and PBL students. Board members include Dickey, Scott Davis, Ashley Bertram and Jim Shearl.

“We’re going out and trying to determine what type of interest there is from businesses in the community in supporting this course,” Dickey said.

Dickey explained that there is a need for economic development in smaller communities, particularly from students in local schools.

“We see students graduate, go off to college and disappear, never to come home,” Dickey said. “Local businesspeople are having a hard time finding replacements to keep their businesses going in the future. We’ve also got some great students in our local schools. Can we show them the opportunities that exist in their own backyards?”

The goal of the program, Dickey said, is to help students understand the business world.

“We teach them professional skills, such as the positive working skills that they need to run a business,” Dickey said. “Even if the students don’t end up running a business in the future, the goal is that they might have an advantage over another applicant for a position because they know the ins and outs of the workforce.”

Dickey said students would meet from 7:30 to 9 a.m. each school day at a local business, where they would be taught by a facilitator overseeing the course. During the class, students would visit local businesses and see how the work is done. By the end of the school year, Dickey said, students would be tasked with proposing their own business model and determining how it would run.

A number of students aren’t aware of the businesses in their communities, Dickey said.

“We’ve seen that a large number of students don’t know how many businesses there are in the community, and therefore they aren’t aware of what drives the local economy and the job opportunities that are available,” he said.

Dickey said he has seen positive support from area businesses in supporting the course. To bring the course to GCMS and PBL, each sponsoring business would need to donate $1,000 each year for three years to underwrite the cost of developing and teaching the course.

Other business
Also at last Wednesday night’s meeting:

➜ Board members approved the 2017 summer school program. Clara Peterson Elementary School Principal Amanda Wetherell said the program would run from July 17 through Aug. 4 at both Clara Peterson and the junior high school. School would last each day from 8 a.m. until noon. The board also approved the summer driver’s education program. PBL High School Principal Travis Duley said classroom instruction would last from May 30 until June 8.

➜ The board approved 2017-18 building handbooks. McClure said there would be no changes to the acceptable-use policy, and that all handbooks are ready to go. The athletic handbook will be voted on at the next meeting in June to include changes that have not been finalized, he said.

➜ Board members rejected bids for new bleachers at Zimmerman Field at PBL High School as recommended by McClure. McClure said all of the bids received were too high. McClure said he will work with Reifsteck to negotiate a price, though he said new bleachers would not be installed this summer.

➜ McClure said “a few kids applied” for classes through the Early College & Career Academy at Parkland College, and he was working on an agreement with the GCMS school district to develop a nursing class at the high school. The class, in conjunction with Gibson Area Hospital, would meet five days a week. Students would be taught by health professionals and receive instruction in order to receive their CNA license. An existing course at GCMS has 10 students, and McClure said that PBL students would join the class in Gibson City only if there were spots to fill.

➜ Board members approved a $2,200, three-year contract with Gibson Area Hospital for sports medicine services through 2020; a Title 1 plan for the district; and an all-in model in its letter of agreement with ECRA Group.

➜ Lead the Way, a STEM-specific program for district students, was approved by board members. District faculty member Matthew Duffy will teach the course, which focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Duffy will also receive training. McClure said the district could receive additional funding or decide to discontinue the program after three years.

➜ The board voted to increase bandwidth from 100 megabytes per second to 500 through the Illinois Century Network.
Rob Pacey, technology integration specialist for the district, said the faster speed would account for computer-based MAP and PARCC testing.

➜ McClure announced that Walter Elrod, H.P. Larson III and Sally Peterson Falzone were selected for induction into the PBL Hall of Fame.

➜ The board approved summer administrative office hours. McClure said the district office will be open Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Fridays from 7 a.m. to noon.

➜ Board members voted to allow bids to open for the food service contract.

➜ McClure reported that 85 students pre-registered for kindergarten last month.

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