Fort Smith School Board members discuss process to award contracts

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,003 views 

The Fort Smith Public Schools Board of Education awarded a constructor manager at risk contract to Conway-based Nabholz Construction for a drainage and additional parking lot project at the FSPS Peak Innovation Center.

The project is estimated to cost around $1.4 million and will alleviate future parking lot and potential building flooding at Peak, and provide additional parking needed once the second phase of the building, including a community room space, is completed.

Record rainfall in Fort Smith caused flash flooding in the city June 7, June 8 and June 10. Water came into Peak Innovation Center during the rainfall June 7 from two sources, according to FSPS reports. On the north side of the facility, the water entered into the building approximately 15-20 feet inward along the majority of its entire length, the report states.

On the east side of the facility, water entered approximately 20-30 feet down the corridors, the unfinished classrooms and the community room space, which are part of phase two of the project and not yet finished. On the north side of the facility, the water entered in approximately 15-20 feet inward along the majority of its entire length, the report states.

The board voted five to one to award the contract to Nabholz, with board member Sandy Dixon voting against the motion. Board President Dee Blackwell was absent.

Dixon, owner of Turn Key Construction Management, raised concerns about the scoring system for contractors who apply for a construction manager at risk contracts with FSPS. She said there should be more weight given to “local companies,” especially those with a long history of satisfactory work with FSPS.

Fort Smith-based Beshears Construction, Inc. and Little Rock-based Clark Construction were the other two companies applying for the contract.

“We’ve got a local contractor that has probably a history of about 40 years working in Fort Smith, and I’m not sure what those number of years are working for the Fort Smith schools, but I personally have worked for Fort Smith schools for 20 years, and to this date that contractor has never not performed on a project,” Dixon said.

She said she has to wonder if the history of companies working with FSPS is taken into consideration in the scoring process.

Two of the categories in the scoring rubric are: Community leadership and presence in local community and relevant project experience and experience with FSPS. Both have a possible score of 20. Nabholz and Beshears both received a 19.4 in the first category (community leadership and presence in local community). Beshears received a 15.6 in the other category, while Nabholz received 19.6.

Nabholz is the largest construction company in the state and has a presence in many communities across the state, which gives it an unfair advantage against local companies, Dixon said.

“And at the end of the day, you have another contractor that is being compared to the largest contractor in the state of Arkansas. I mean there is no way they can have the relevant resume that this one would have,” Dixon added, noting that just because a company has a presence in a community, does not mean it is local to that community.

Board Vice President Talicia Richardson said even if a company is not headquartered in a city, if it has an office there, it is paying taxes in that city and employing workers in that city and should not be disadvantaged for not being “local.”

Dixon said she would like to see the criteria for scoring companies changed so local companies can more fairly compete against larger companies, especially if the local company has a long, positive history of working with FSPS. She also said she thinks someone with construction experience should somehow be involved in the process.

Turn Key was the general contractor on the Peak Center.