Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Building manager selection deadlocks

By Jennifer Mrozowski
Enquirer staff writer

The Cincinnati school board on Monday could not reach agreement in its third attempt to find a group of firms to oversee the budget and timeline of the district's $1 billion school construction project.

The board voted 3-3 to have the team of Cincinnati-based CSA Group and Houston-based 3D/I oversee the project, in association with the firms Infrastructure Service Inc., Sigma Capital Inc. and Corner of Success Inc. The cost was estimated at $3.1 million for two years.

Board President Florence Newell was absent. Because of the tie, the measure did not pass.

An ad-hoc committee of board members, community members and district administrators will reconvene at an undetermined date to consider options for an oversight group.

Board member Catherine Ingram, who voted against the proposal Monday, said she didn't feel the scope of the firms' work was clearly defined. She also questioned the number of firms being considered.

"I just want some additional information that I think it's necessary for us to have," she said.

District administrators have said they need the additional oversight because the district's facilities staff can't handle the additional workload generated by the construction and renovation of 66 schools.

Some tasks the administration wants help with include implementation of strategies to improve the percentage of minority-owned firms participating in the building project, coordination and relocation of students and staff, oversight of site safety plans, preparation of contracts and notices and assessment of change orders.

A majority of the board earlier this year rejected a proposal by Superintendent Alton Frailey to have another group of firms oversee the project. Frailey favored a team led by Parsons Brinckerhoff of Ohio Inc., an international planning, engineering and construction management company with offices downtown.

Some board members said Frailey's proposal was too vague and they questioned the cost - estimated at $6.9 million over three years or $16.4 million for the remainder of the 10-year building project.

After hearing concerns from some board members, the district treasurer later withdrew a second proposal to have the Atlanta-based firm Prad Group Inc. oversee the project.

An ad-hoc committee of the board and district administration developed the latest proposal, saying the team has experience with building multiple school buildings.

Board member Rick Williams criticized Monday's proposal because it requires the firms to report to the seven board members, the treasurer and superintendent, he said. Williams has said the team should report to the superintendent to limit confusion and micromanagement.

"This could be the greatest team of people in the history of school construction, but the process is just so ludicrous," Williams said.

The board on Monday also approved a 3.9 percent pay increase for Frailey. His $187,787 salary will increase to $195,111.

E-mail jmrozowski@enquirer.com

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