Tuesday, August 3, 2004

CPS studies construction monitor

By Jennifer Mrozowski
Enquirer staff writer

Cincinnati schools Superintendent Alton Frailey said he was surprised to learn that some school board members on Monday listened to a presentation - without him present and without his input - for a multimillion-dollar proposal to have a firm oversee the district's $1 billion construction project.

District Treasurer Michael Geoghegan presented a proposal to the board's Facilities Committee to hire the Atlanta-based firm Prad Group Inc. at an estimated cost of $13 million over the 10-year project. The firm would help ensure the construction of the 66 new and renovated schools stays on time and on budget.

But Frailey, who said he learned of the meeting Friday and couldn't attend, was made aware of the proposal's details only on Monday.

"I have long advocated the need for a project manager to oversee this massive project, and, in fact, having a project manager originally was my idea," Frailey said. "I would have loved to be a part of this meeting; however, I learned of the meeting late Friday and it conflicted with my weekly meeting with my executive cabinet.

"In fact I was not even made aware of the content of the Facilities Committee meeting until the agenda was delivered to me during my previously scheduled meeting."

The board voted down Frailey's first proposal in April, which would have had four firms overseeing the project at a cost of $6.9 million over three years or $16.4 million over the life of the project.

Board Vice President Harriet Russell said the board asked Geoghegan and Frailey to come back with a scaled-down proposal by Aug. 1.

"It became evident that the superintendent was not going to present to the board revisions to the original proposal," she said. "I don't believe power politics should get in the way with moving ahead with this."

She said the contract is necessary to contain costs of the construction project. A vote could come Wednesday during a special meeting of the board.

The new proposal with Prad Group Inc., a firm that firm specializes in architecture, engineering, design and construction, would cost up to $5.3 million over three years, or $13 million over the life of the construction.

Frailey said he and his chief operations officer were scheduled to meet this week with a consultant to discuss how to restructure the original plan. He has said it's imperative to have an outside firm or group of firms to help oversee the project because district staff is too small to handle construction and renovation of 66 schools.

Board members in April said they didn't understand how the money would have been spent in the original proposal and what jobs each firm would have had.

Monday, Russell said the new proposal is better defined and cheaper.

The contract would be paid for through interest earned on the sale of bonds for the construction, Geoghegan said.

Special meetings

Cincinnati Public Schools will hold a special public meeting 7 p.m. today on the district's proposed $454 million 2004-05 budget. The meeting will be at 2651 Burnet Ave. in Corryville. A second special meeting, on the proposal to hire a firm to oversee the district's $1 billion construction project, will be held at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at the same location.


E-mail jmrozowski@enquirer.com

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