Fort Smith Public School district hires another consultant for Peak project

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,530 views 

With the contract with its project manager drawing to a close and substantial work still to be done on the Peak Innovation Center, Fort Smith Public Schools hired a second out of state company to assist in closing out the Peak project.

Fort Worth, Texas-based Procedeo LLC was hired in the summer to assist in the close out of the Peak Innovation Center project documentation as the Hoar Project Management (HPM) contract was set to expire in the fall. The company is assisting  with final details of established agreements through the “punch list” process, said Zena Featherston Marshall, FSPS executive director of communication and community partnerships.

Birmingham, Ala.-based HPM, which has an office in Dallas,  was paid $4.91 million to manage millage projects for the school district. The company maintained an onsite and decision-making role in all projects. The district no longer needed the on-site presence provided for in the retiring contract with HPM, Marshall said, and Procedeo was hired.

Fort Smith voters in May 2018 approved a school millage increase, the first in 31 years, raising the millage rate in Fort Smith from 36.5 mills to 42 mills. The new rate was estimated to raise $120.822 million, $35 million of which will go toward district-wide safety improvements.
The millage plan included a new $13.724 million career and technology center, now the Peak Innovation Center, featuring specialized lab spaces and classrooms for courses in healthcare, information technology, and advanced manufacturing. The center was originally expected to be open to students with the start of the 2021-22 school year, but numerous construction challenges have slowed the project. FSPS now expects the center to be open and for students to be attending it in late March for the final four to five weeks of the semester, Marshall said earlier this month.

The Procedo contract, established as a not-to-exceed $10,700 agreement, was signed on July 6. The limited-scope agreement is a professional services contract and did not come before the board or discussed in the board’s regular or called board meetings. Their role is not to be confused with that of MAHG Architecture of Fort Smith, which was hired to process pay applications and other “final construction administration tasks” for all projects associated with the Vision 2023 Capital Improvement Program.

When asked about a new construction program manager in November, the district told Talk Business & Politics that MAHG was managing the final process. However, Talk Business & Politics was told another consultant had been hired. After more questions, the district finally acknowledged Procedeo had been hired.

“Procedeo’s role is to verify details of established Peak Innovation Center construction agreements,” Marshall said.

The company was hired to “review and validate the completion of details noted in project agreements for Peak Innovation Center,” she said, noting the company advises the district on questions related to industry best practice.

“For instance, when the contractor makes an RFI (Request for Information), Procedeo advises the district on best practice,” Marshall said.

Though not a Fort Smith- or regionally-based, FSPS determined Procedeo was the company best suited for this project based on their experience in K12 construction, Marshall said. The district is considering a second agreement with Procedeo to continue their work through the completion of the Peak project, Marshall said.

“Procedeo is assisting with change order requests to ensure the change orders have appropriate back-up documentation,” Marshall said. “There are still aspects of the Peak Innovation project to be completed. If the district agrees to a second Procedeo proposal, Procedeo will finalize active project documents.”

She explained that because the Peak Innovation Center project includes a U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) component and the construction manager at risk (CMAR) component, it is important to ensure all processes have met criteria standards of both.

“If the district agrees to the second agreement, Procedeo will review the project from on-set to completion to ensure all standards have been met from the beginning of each of these components,” she said.

The Peak Innovation Center is being constructed from a donated facility at the intersection of Zero Street and Painter Lane in east Fort Smith. In February 2019, the estate of William Hutcheson Jr. donated the former Hutcheson shoe manufacturing building at 5900 Painter Lane to be the Peak site. The 181,710-square-foot building that sits on almost 17 acres at the corner of Zero Street and Painter Lane saved the district at least $3 million that had been budgeted to buy an existing building for the career center. FSPS has received numerous gifts and grants for the center, including a $1.4 million federal EDA grant to help build the center.

Students attending the center have been promised to receive a hands-on approach to career-focused curriculum and programming taught by UAFS faculty as an extension of the Western Arkansas Technical Center.

Fort Smith-based Turn Key Construction Management is the construction manager at risk for the construction project. There are additional projects slated for completion at Peak in the future, like a community room and visual art space, but there are no plans for Procedeo involvement in those at this time, Marshall said.

In July, Shawn Shaffer, FSPS facilities supervisor, told the school board the Peak center was coming in $6.6 million over budget. The anticipated final cost of the project, including phase two work with an elevator and roof replacement but not including art, is $19.076 million, about $6.6 million more than originally planned. That cost includes $18.627 million committed or budgeted funds and $450,000 in non-committed contingency funds, Shaffer said.

That total did include fixing what Shaffer described as extensive roof leaks on the building, which the district learned of in October 2019. Total funding for the building is $16.505 million, including $13.724 from millage funds, the $1.4 million EPA grant, and $1.38 million from phase two funding, Shaffer said. That leaves the project roughly $2.57 million over budget.

The master plan for the district’s millage projects originally estimated the cost of the Peak Center at $13.724 million in 2018. That cost would be for a 50,000-square-foot facility to be located in an already existing store-front building on property the district would purchase, such as the old Best Buy facility, Shaffer said.