The Fort Smith Public Schools board of education agreed on construction managers at risk for some of the remaining big construction projects for the district at a special called board meeting Monday (April 13).
Fort Smith voters approved a 5.558 millage increase for Fort Smith public schools in 2018. The new rate is expected to raise $120.822 million, $35 million of which will go toward district-wide safety improvements.
Other noteworthy items to be funded with the millage is a new $13.724 million Career and Technology Center featuring specialized lab spaces and classrooms for courses in healthcare, information technology, and manufacturing; additions and improvements to both Northside and Southside high schools which will include new freshman academies and new gyms at both; security renovations at Darby and Ramsey junior high schools; and closing in classrooms with secure walls and doors at Barling, Cook, Morrison, and Woods elementary schools.
Monday, the school board in the its first virtual meeting, which was held because of regulations to help control the spread of COVID-19, approved contracts for construction manager at risk for projects at Darby, Cook, Woods and Barling.
Contracts have been announced already and construction is underway at Ramsey Junior High, and NHS and SHS. Bids for construction for the Peak Innovation Center were let in March, and renovations at Morrison Elementary were completed before the start of the 2019-2020 school year.
The school board voted to approve Rogers-based Nabholz Construction for the construction manager at risk for Darby Junior High. The $7.7 million project will enclose the school and is expected to be completed by fall 2021, said George Watts with Hoar Program Management (HPM) of Dallas, the project manager hired by the school district. Nabholz has a local office in Fort Smith and is currently active on other projects for FSPS, Watts said.
“They have a strong understanding of LEAN construction practices. LEAN is a means of project management that is essentially meant to identify and drive out waste (wasted time, materials and labor), which is fundamentally the enemy of any project,” Watts said.
The board also agreed to grant the constructor manager at risk contract for security wall projects at Barling and Woods elementary schools to Turnkey Construction Management of Fort Smith. The project should come in with a cost of $4 million, Watts said. Turnkey also did the wall project at Morrison in 2019.
Baldwin & Shell Construction Co. of Little Rock was approved as the construction manager at risk for the Cook Elementary School project. That project is estimated to be $2.9 million.
Of the five companies submitting for the construction manager at risk contracts on the three projects, Turnkey was the only Fort Smith-based company, Watts said.
Because all Arkansas schools are closed to the public through the end of the school year and have gone to on-line only instruction because of the COVID-19 pandemic, construction projects underway at NHS, SHS and Ramsey should proceed faster than expected, Watts said.
“This seems like a good opportunity to potentially accelerate work now that the school academic year is being done remotely. The buildings won’t have an active population in them, so we are looking for every activity that we can to try to reel that in and hopefully gain some legs up on the schedule,” Watts said.
He noted however, that first and foremost on the projects is the safety of workers and students, faculty and anyone from Fort Smith Public Schools who might need to be on the sites. Crews are undertaking best industry practices, which follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Occupational Health and Safety (OSHA) guidelines, he said. There was a nationwide safety stand down implemented by Association of General Contractors April 9.
“Nationwide, every commercial job shut down, and all workers went through a COVID-19 protocol training. We were able to verify that crews did do that on Fort Smith Jobs. So that’s number one,” Watts said.