Fort Smith School Board approves millage bond, committee ‘charge,’ and project management

by Aric Mitchell ([email protected]) 490 views 

Fort Smith’s school millage increase, approved by voters on May 22, once again took center stage at a school board meeting on Monday (July 31). The School Board unanimously approved three items related to a bond issue, as well as the selection of an outside firm for project management on the $120.822 million worth of additions, new construction, and updates, and the creation of an advisory committee.

Implementation will take place over a five-year period, and it will start at over $35 million in safety and security improvements.

On the bond issue, the Board approved a resolution for $90 million. Little Rock-based Stephens, Inc., opened bids on the loan after providing previous estimates of a 4% interest rate. The low bid came in at 3.649302%, resulting in $8.767 million of savings on interest. That amounts to just under $285,000 in savings per year on the average annual principal and interest (P/I) payment ($4.92 million per year against an estimate of $5.204 million).

According to FSPS Chief Financial Officer Charles Warren, “this savings could be used to mitigate debt service costs if interest rates rise above 4% in the future.” The bond issue will occur on Aug. 15. It likely will be followed by a $31 million bond issue at an estimated 4.17% in September 2019. The second bond issue’s estimate — subject to slight changes based on interest rates — would run at an annualized P/I of approximately $1.895 million, bringing the total P/I to $6.815 million annually, or $204.708 million for the life of the loans. Both loans would reach maturity around Feb. 1, 2049.

Also Monday, the Board authorized the administration to negotiate and award a contract to Hoar Program Management (HPM), the highest-ranked firm in a bid for the Owner’s Construction Representative/Project Management Services contract for millage implementation.

On July 11, the FSPS purchasing department received the request for quotation (RFQ) documents from three firms. A committee consisting of Warren, Chief Academic Officer Barry Owen, Deputy Superintendent Terry Morawski, and Supervisor of Maintenance and Construction Travis Biggs did the evaluation and selected HPM on the basis of its letter of interest, organization of response, experience, qualifications, scope of service understanding, references, and “subjective fit,” or how well the firm understood the district’s goals and mission as well as its general approach and concepts of moving forward with the millage plan. Jacobs and Van Horn Construction submitted the other two RFQ proposals.

Lastly, the Board adopted a “charge” for the Citizens Millage Advisory Committee (CMAC) as presented. The committee was presented as part of an implementation plan to the Board on April 20. The CMAC is “to provide transparency and enhance public confidence in the use of millage funds authorized by voters in May 2018,” according to a memo from the administration.

The purpose of the Committee is to monitor the progress of the millage projects “and recommend ways the district can maximize the potential of the 2018 Millage Projects to the FSPS Board of Directors,” the memo concluded.

FSPS Superintendent Dr. Doug Brubaker said the final recommendation would be before the Board in August. Thus far, “about 30” have shown interest, Brubaker said, adding that he believed “a high percentage” would likely participate. Each member will be selected to a renewable two-year term. All meetings would be open to the public, and the committee would begin “no later than September 2018.”

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