Gasconade County R-2 approves no tax bond project construction manager, architect firm

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 1/25/23

The Gasconade County R-2 Board of Education on Jan. 17 voted 6-0 to enter into negotiations with Porter, Berendzen & Associates for architect services and Nabholz for construction manager at risk …

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Gasconade County R-2 approves no tax bond project construction manager, architect firm


The Gasconade County R-2 Board of Education on Jan. 17 voted 6-0 to enter into negotiations with Porter, Berendzen & Associates for architect services and Nabholz for construction manager at risk (CMAR). Approval will allow the district to begin preliminary work on building designs for a performing arts center if the public passes a no-tax-increase bond issue in April.

Board of Education President Glenn Ely began the Jan. 17 conversation.

“For those unable to attend (the Jan. 11 meeting) we took really good notes,” he began. “All of (the businesses) were really informed and diligent and had done numerous projects in our state. There were no bad choices. They were identified as highly qualified architects and construction managers.”

The board interviewed three of the five companies on Jan. 11 that responded to a request for qualifications (RFQ) the district is required to complete in order to hire a company and begin creating potential project designs.

Director Jean Baker said all three companies seemed eager to do the job.

“Some came with ideas already, which shows a visual. I think any of them would do the job well,” Baker said.

Ely said both he and Superintendent Dr. Jeri Kay Hardy like the first and third interviews. Hardy told board members that she felt any of the three would do a great job, but one scored just a little higher than the others on her opinion. Porter, Berendzen & Associates scored 109 on her score sheet and Paragon came in second at 93 of 110 points.

“(Porter, Berendzen & Associates) could bring more folks on board with additional expertise,” Ely said. “That definitely rounded them out and they specialize in everything.”

Director Jason Crowe said their booklet with completed projects matched the district.

“They have more stuff that looks like us,” he said. “Paragon had some really cool stuff, but doesn’t look like us.”

Ely said he felt Porter, Berendzen & Associates came in with serious knowledge and did their diligence before the meeting. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Staci Johnson said she would hesitate to go with Porter, Berendzen & Associates if it weren’t for that company’s pairing with the architect’s alliance.

“But I think enough people are there to get the project that we want,” she finished.

The decision made to go with Porter, Berendzen & Associates made, Ely moved on to construction managers. Hardy said she felt the board was leaning more toward a CMAR.

“They didn’t get too far into cost,” Hardy said. “They carry all of the risks for a project of this size.”

The board had two CMARs in the final round of interviews.

“Nabholz has strong community involvement, they will take the extra step,” Hardy said

Ely agreed, adding that they brought items to the Jan. 11 meeting, such as treats for the board.

“The other company talked about it,” Ely said. “They are from St. Louis. They didn’t bring anything.”

Hardy added that looking at the company owner during the interviews she noticed his boots were polished but well-worn.

“Did anyone notice his boots?” Hardy asked. “He said he is there in person and on-site and his boots show it. They are big on showing that. His boots were worn though he was dressed nice.”

Nabholz associates also showed how they work with architects to get to know the district’s goals.

Hardy said she liked both contractor options but scored Nabholz two points higher — a total of 102 points on her scorecard.

“Nabholz does a lot of projects as far as where our community is based,” she said.

The board consensus was to hire Nabholz as a CMAR, as they submitted bids as both a CMA and CMAR.

“All presenters were qualified and not just at the core, but committed to providing learning interactions for students,” Ely said. “A lot of focus and commitment in every element of what success would look like.”

Ely added that the proximity of the construction manager would provide for “top-shelf interaction.”

“He communicates very effectively on site,” Ely said. “We will see quality if we approve that one. There were a lot of good things happening. Once you have, a plan that guy is going to be very present.”

The board interviewed Paragon Architecture; incite (SIC) Design Studio; Porter, Berendzen & Associates’ SM Wilson; Navigate; and Nabholz.

The board approved Porter, Berendzen & Associates and Nabholz with a 6-0 vote.

Hardy later commented on the approved choices.

“We’ve worked with and are very familiar with Porter, Berendzen, & Associates,” Hardy began. “They have helped with the bus barn expansion, some of the classroom expansions and other buildings we have. They are based out of Ashland, which is pretty close, and are teaming with Architect’s Alliance to bring a lot of experience.”

Hardy explained that larger firms will typically pair with architect firms to get the best experience.

“Architect’s Alliance, the partner company, has built several performing arts centers including Missouri Theatre Renovation in Columbia, Capital City Christian Church in Jefferson City, Miller Performing Arts Center in Jefferson City, Blair Oaks High School auditorium, Capital City High School theatre, and Eldon High School’s Fine Arts Center,” Hardy listed. “Their booklets are really good. They have done several performing arts centers and work with some great companies on acoustics and sound.”

Hardy said the board’s decision to go with a CMAR instead of a CMA was easy considering the size of the project, but she thought both entities would do a good job.

“I don’t think we could have went wrong with any company,” Hardy said. “We had one CMA that was in the final three.”

Hardy said there are many benefits to a CMAR, which is the type of contractor the district approved.

“What that does is ensure that our cost will not go over a certain dollar amount and if it does the construction manager assumes all of the cost,” she said. “With a project as large as a performing arts center it makes sense to go with a CMAR.”

When asked about the cost difference between the two options, Hardy explained the RFQs are not based on cost but on qualifications.

“Because you don’t want people cutting corners on safety,” she explained. “So negotiations are on qualifications at that point.”

However, CMARs do typically cost more.

“It ensures they don’t go over the amount,” Hardy said. “There are some fees, they are a little higher, but you also only have to hire one person because a CMAR comes with both a project manager and an architect. It makes more sense to go with a construction manager at risk.”

Hardy added that a CMAR also includes the possibility of coming out under the budgeted project amount.

“If they come out under the projected cost, the entire (difference) will be returned to the district,” she said. “People don’t build schools every day. This is an added layer of security for the schools to make sure they are not overspending taxpayer money with unforeseen costs. That is why they go with a CMAR.”

Now that a construction manager and architect group have been selected, the board of education may begin prioritizing projects identified by the Long-Range Facility Committee.

“Once the board reviews their priority list then the architects and CMAR will sit down with us to carve out what the cost of things are, what could happen with the bond issue, and what we can afford,” Hardy said. “Then they can sit down with the architect and CMAR to determine the cost versus building analysis.”

Hardy reminded the board that all of the construction managers and architects met ICC500 qualifications — meaning they are all certified to be designing and building the storm-safe area as part of the performing arts center — which is a big part of the design and the district’s goal to improve safety.


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