Bob Folkman likes to pose the question: do you know the difference between an old buffalo and a young buffalo?
“You give an old buffalo a problem and he’ll give 10 reasons why it can’t be solved,” Folkman said. “You give that same problem to a young buffalo he’ll find 10 ways to solve it.
“That’s what we’re trying to do,” said Folkman, the capital improvement facilitator for DD2. “When I lose my zest to find solutions to problems that’s when I know I need to hang it up. But there is always a solution — and the best solution is good for everybody at no cost. And that’s what we try to find.”
Folkman came to DD2 in Spring 2013 and has worked with the district through the ups and downs of its school construction projects – namely the three rising elementary schools.
In March the board fired M. B. Kahn, the contractor it had hired to handle all of DD2’s construction projects, because the contractor’s cost estimates for the project turned out to be more expensive than what had previously been determined.
Then, in May, bid results came in for the Sires and Alston Bailey elementary Schools – even higher than what M.B. Kahn had predicted.
“I was probably as shocked as anybody,” Folkman said. “I didn’t sleep for a couple of weeks. But I was confident in the process.”
There was a possibility the projects would go out for re-bid. However, DD2 board members met June 12 for a called meeting and executive session, and they voted to proceed with the low bidders – but not without trying to come up with a plan on how to improve the designs of the school without compromising both the space needed for students, and the district’s budget.
Instead, the changes will likely be to the appearance of the schools.
After a three-hour discussion with their attorneys, board members decided to proceed with the low bids under a CM-at-risk contract.
Folkman said a big factor in that decision was the district’s time constraint, which is why they decided not to go out for rebid.
“We would’ve lost three months before we could have started construction,” Folkman said. “That would have been devastating, trying to open a school for 2015-2016.”
DD2 projects 600 additional students will walk through its doors in the 2014-2015 school year. With a district that is continuing to grow, Folkman said there is a need to get the schools completed.
“It (the county) is growing and people are coming from all over to work because they work in the surrounding areas, but they don’t want to live there – they want to live in a good school distrct,” he said. “It’s almost like a catch-22; we’re going to build all these schools and then more people are going to come.
“So how do we keep up with it? What can the taxpayers afford?”
Ergo, the district decided against going out for rebid and proceeded with a CM-at-risk.
A CM-at-risk contract allows the district to proceed to work with the same low-bidding contractors, but allows the contractors to continue to work on the schools’ land while being able to work with architects and the district to make changes in the design to bring the projects back within DD2’s budget.
Folkman said the square footage of the projects will not change. What may change are the appearance of the buildings and possibly the mechanical systems. The district hopes to use a more energy-efficient system in the schools – in February DD2 reported saving $275,000 using energy-efficient lighting fixtures and heating and cooling units.
Despite recent events, Folkman remains optimistic with the construction project.
“I think we’re very lucky to have gotten the architects and engineers we’ve got,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate, with the smaller projects, that we’ve gotten local contractors. I’m looking forward to a successful program that meets the needs of the taxpayers.”