HANOVER — The South Shore Vo-Tech Capital Projects Subcommittee has green-lighted a request for qualifications process for an existing facilities assessment at its meeting Monday, Aug. 14.
The vote came after a discussion of planning “the first and most important steps in working toward an ultimate goal” of creating a master facilities plan for the school by the end of this calendar year, according to Superintendent-Director Dr. Thomas J. Hickey.If the study completed by this December, a proposed project could be included in the fiscal 2019 budget.
“There is simply no way we can handle our educational needs within this building footprint,” Hickey said. “You’re going to need something with a high ceiling and a free-standing out building could be part of that.”
The plan would also outline the available land on which the district can build.
The district already knows at least one out building is needed for the automotive shop or a greenhouse for the new horticultural program, as well as targeted expansion within the current building’s footprint — such as a possible second floor for academics. Hickey said examples of specific need should be included in any building study.
“This also gives us an unbiased look at what we’ve got when we go to do something,” said School Committee Chairman Robert Molla of Norwell. “This is just a piece of the puzzle.”
The master plan’s major goal, would include components to be used to inform an engineering firm on the repair or replacement needs the school is seeking to expand the school building and accommodate new educational standards and increasing enrollment.
“This document will also help when going to towns for a legitimate, verifiable need,” Hickey said of the needs of SSVT’s 70-year-old building.
Hickey also reviewed what some “end products” and request for qualifications (RFQs) would look like. The bulk of that presentation focused on a facilities plan that KBA Architects produced for Tri-County Vocational. An RFQ details information on what a school district or municipality wants to see in a construction project — to be used as the basis for a plan proposal.
The subcommittee would then wait for firms to respond, choosing three applicants to interview.
“There are firm criteria in here to determine whether or not the firms are eligible,” Hickey said. “My research is showing there are two ways of doing this.”
The panel can require a “not-to-exceed fee” in the proposal if they wish as a way to control the scope and cost of a firm’s engineering study.
“What we would need to do is make very clear what we want and what we don’t want, but we would have to either state that up front or in the form of an addendum,” Hickey said about components that may have been overlooked. “They could ask those questions, we could answer those questions and then we would supply any answers to questions asked, making it completely transparent to anybody who seeks them.”
Committee member Robert Mahoney of Rockland asked if the state could provide a vetted bid list of engineering firms for the facilities plan work.
“It’s not so much the pricing as it is approved state to use, kind of like the bid process for machinery,” he said.
“It’s the authority to get on a government project,” added Molla. “They pre-qualify you to bid.”
Hickey said such a list would be helpful and he would look into it.
One process of selecting proposals, starts with an examination of its qualifications and not the price proposal, he said, with price negotiated after a firm is selected. Some municipalities notify RFQ bidders that there is a not-to-exceed clause in effect, limiting the amount they are willing to pay for an engineering study.
“Everybody has a budget,” Hickey said, noting he does not want to spend the entire $125,000 booked in for master facilities planning and other design fees on the master facilities plan alone. “This kind of plan does not include the actual design of anything.”
Member Kenneth Thayer of Cohasset asked if there was funding built in for unanticipated cost overruns on such a plan.
“We’re basically going to tell them what we want,” Molla replied. “Those are things we know. They’re going to go through and say, ‘you can’t do this without that.’ It’s not them telling us what they think we need.”
Brookline High School did an educational master plan in 2015 at a cost of $105,000. Lincoln Public Schools did one in 2016, contracting with a firm for $40,000. Lexington spent $75,000 and Cape Cod Academy, a private school, paid $59,000 for a master plan in 2014. Tri-County Vocational spent $125,000.
“I personally don’t think that we would be spending that much money,” Hickey said. “We are not the same size and we have done some recent planning and our circumstances are such that parts of this building are in very good condition.”
He advocates being very specific about what parts of the building need review and which do not, making the school’s previous study data available to an engineering study contractor.
“Out of this should come a 10-year capital facilities maintenance plan that we should be able to debate, reprioritize, move things around,” he said. “But this outside analysis should give us a roadmap for the next 10 years.”
The major goals cover specific needs under the heading of architectural, civil or site requirements, structural, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, hazardous material and a capital improvement plan and cost estimate. A second goal would include a location for a greenhouse, a space needs analysis the percentage of classroom use —including the amount and how much of the school day in which it is used — and identification of all buildable land on campus
“This is what we could bake into the RFQ,” Hickey said. “The firm should have a draft of the highest-priority items, unofficially, to the superintendent by Dec. 1.”