Meeker officials defend bid process for new school that needs repair

The Meeker School District RE-1 board hopes to find out Tuesday how long it will take to fix and reopen its structurally impaired, year-old elementary school.

Meanwhile, board president Mary Strang is defending the district’s decision to use a method different from a traditional bidding process to select the main contractor on the project. Strang said the design-build process the district followed instead resulted in a $1 million savings.

District students began classes two weeks late, and the elementary school’s approximately 340 students are being taught in other district buildings after additional structural problems were found in the school.

Last fall, movement was found where the school’s gymnasium and roof met, and it was fixed with bracing. A subsequent engineering review resulted in the recommendation that the rest of the building be shored up with lateral bracing.

Neenan Company built the school, which is covered under a warranty. The company also has committed to cover moving expenses related to the temporary accommodations for the school’s students.

Some members of the public have questioned the no-bid nature of the district’s hiring of Neenan. But Strang said school laws don’t require competitive bidding for school construction projects, and district policy lets the board choose not to use that traditional approach if another is in the district’s best interest.

She said the district found other area districts have benefited from the design/build approach, a common one among Colorado schools in which the contractor also provides architectural and engineering services. It selected Neenan based on its 45-year track record and excellent references, she said.

She said Neenan submitted a “full-blown” proposal, and the district decided against working with another company that submitted a less-detailed one.

Strang said bidding still occurs in the case of hiring of subcontractors and purchases of materials. Neenan has construction crews, but subcontractors were hired for a lot of the project, she said.

She said the district contracted with an independent owner’s representative whose project oversight and supervision of bids produced a $1 million savings. That allowed for adding additional elements to the construction project, which also included remodeling of the high school and middle school. Such a savings wouldn’t have occurred in a traditional bidding process, she said.

A $24 million bond issue paid for the $18 million school and the remodeling projects.

The board will meet at the high school at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to hear from its independent engineer and Neenan, and it may approve repairs that night.


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