The Ashland school board is considering seeking an exemption from a bid process for the Bellview Elementary construction project that would force the district to go with the lowest bidder for the project. Because of the project's short timeline, complexity and cost over $1 million, they could solicit requests for proposals, which may actually save the district money in the long run, officials said.




Unlike the competitive bidding process, where the board is required to base contracts solely on cost, this would allow them to factor in qualifications such as how fast the job could be completed and the contractor's experience with historical preservation and possibly sustainable building, important concerns for the Bellview project. Cost would still make up approximately half of the equation.




"They can't win it on their smiles and good looks," said Scott Perala, operations manager with Heery International, the firm managing the projects. "They've got to really sharpen their pencils."




The biggest potential cost savings is in finding a contractor that could complete the project on time, just before school opens in the fall of 2009. Otherwise, the district would be forced to spend additional funds on temporary classroom space, Perala said.




The board also hopes to construct the "greenest" school in the Rogue Valley, with features such as extra insulation, waterless urinals, and sensors that alter light levels based on available sunlight and alert teachers when they should open the windows.




"To me this is a no-brainer that we're going to go this route," said board member Keith Massie in light of the high sustainability standards the district wishes to apply.




Board chair Mat Marr said a successful project would help not only the district's bottom line, but the planet as well, which should play a role in which contractor is chosen.




With the exception of Ashland High School, all other upcoming construction projects will be awarded to the lowest bidder. The high school project will be overseen by Adroit Construction, acting as the construction manager/general contractor responsible for meeting a guaranteed maximum price quoted before construction begins.




The projects at Helman and Walker Elementaries, which involve new libraries and partial additions, were the first projects to go out to bid in the last few weeks, and construction could start as soon as the end of the month. The board plans to start the Bellview Elementary bidding process in May.




The majority of the costs of construction will accrue once the projects are underway.




"We are basically right now assuming we are within the budget until our bids come in," said Gary DeCock, the project manager with Heery International.




The school board will officially consider the alternate contracting method at its next general meeting on February 11 at 7 p.m. A public hearing will be held just prior, at 6: 30 p.m. for anyone who objects to the district seeking requests for proposals.




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