The Fort Smith Public Schools Board of Education agreed at its regular meeting Monday (Sept. 25) to enter into negotiations with a company to investigate flooding at the district’s Peak Innovation Center.
The school board voted six in favor and Board Vice President Talicia Richardson abstaining to have discussions with Illinois-based Envista Forensics to investigate multiple instances of flooding at the Peak. Envista submitted a proposal to the school board that they would conduct an investigation that would identify deficiencies, detail failures, assign parties at fault and make recommendations for improving the district’s construction process.
Its initial proposal called for a $10,000 retainer and an hourly consulting fee of $275 an hour. The board agreed that School Board President Dalton Person should proceed on the idea that there would be a cap on expenses of between $25,000 to $50,000, but also agreed the details of the cap and expenditures will be discussed more fully at the next board meeting.
While the option of going with Envista was the most expensive option presented to the board Monday night, in Dalton’s opinion, it was the only option that would allow for a finding of fault. Two other companies – Gilbane Building Co. and FTN Associates both submitted proposals after being contacted by Person and Craig Tecmire, FSPS supervisor of purchasing. Both of those companies said their scope of work would not include assessing blame. Gilbane’s proposal had a cost of $35,000. FTN’s proposal said their cost would not exceed $15,000.
“I do want to point out that now we have authorized expenditures that there is precedent of these types of unique situations, and I want to assure you and the public that there is a fundings source that is available that does not touch millage or taxpayer-related money,” said Charles Warren, FSPS chief financial officer, noting that district has rebates, recoveries and interest earnings that provide revenue.
The school board voted June 21 to hire a company to conduct an independent investigation of drainage failures at the center. An RFQ was advertised beginning June 24. It called for an investigation into drainage failures at Peak Innovation Center and states that the school board is seeking a third-party review of the current drainage system and recent drainage failures at the center.
When the deadline for submission, July 28, came and went without any submissions being received, Person and Tecmire reached out to companies that would be qualified. After discussion with multiple companies, proposals from the three companies were presented.
The RFQ stated that FSPS has invested more than $20.363 million, including millage funds, public and private grants, and other sources of funding, in Peak, “a place where career and college-bound students develop real-world skills and earn industry-specific certifications to create a future workforce that will drive success across industry and beyond.”
“(The FSPS school board) is seeking an investigation into the multiple drainage failures and the current drainage systems at Peak Innovation Center. The School Board recognizes that to properly investigate our drainage failures at Peak, the entire building process will likely need to be evaluated and welcomes this,” the RFQ stated.
The board voted June 21 that whoever is selected by the board to investigate the center will report to and operate under the direction of the school board.
The subject of an independent investigation into the flooding issues was broached after two companies involved with the construction of the center – Fort Smith-based Turn Key Construction, which was the construction manager at risk for the Peak Innovation Center project, and Halff Associates (formerly Morrison-Shipley Engineers, Inc.), engineers for the project – wrote letters to the school board raising concerns about the building and water issues.
Though the RFQ states that the school board recognizes the investigation could be a lengthy process, it also states that the board asks initially that it not take more than three months to complete after official notification to begin work. The RFQ states that the school board expects a final deliverable written and oral report to the board that identifies inefficiencies and detailed failures within Peak’s building and planning process.
They also want the report to include a comprehensive understanding of parties at fault in the recent drainage failures and recommended improvements for the district to incorporate in the future.