Plenty of Objection to go Around Over Life Skills Center
Left, an conceptual image of the finished LSC, as accepted by the school board. (The Samuels Group)
By Jacob Mathias
Public and board members alike objected to an expedited timeline and lack of local business contracts for the new Life Skills Center during Monday’s school board meeting.
The board approved the design concept from The Samuels Group of Wausau by a vote of 6-3. District officials say the project is slated to be completed by the end of August.
The timeline received criticism at the meeting, as the bulk of the LSC’s construction will be during the summer, allowing very little interaction with students who some were hoping to be a major part of the construction process.
“I think we need to stop, put our brakes on it,” said board member Lisa Totten, who added she felt students should be involved in some aspect during each step of the process.
Board member Renae Sheibley disagreed. “You can wait, you can postpone things, but you do lose those opportunities that are here today,” she said.
In December 2012, the board finance committee approved a design-build contract with The Samuels Group to provide design work and supervise the project. Bids will be accepted for construction and subcontracting jobs February 8- 27.
Local contractors said they didn’t approve of the method by which design firms were chosen, a process that has yet to be made public. Several firms were “invited” to interview after being provided a list of questions prior to meeting with district officials, but no public bids were accepted for the design phase. It’s not clear how interviewed companies were chosen.
“None of us as members of the builders association received any invite to be included in this,” said Roger Lepak, a local general contractor.
“Local contractors who are quite capable of doing this job were excluded from the process of getting an opportunity to build or design this building,” said contractor Kurt Lepak. “Why didn’t some of these guys get an opportunity to bid on this thing?”
Board member Angel Faxon said she was bothered by an out- of- town design firm being given the design contract, and objected to the interview process over the more traditional request for bids, leaving many local companies out of the mix.
“They’d never heard of this contract,” said Faxon, who insisted she felt misled about the extent of The Samuels Group’s involvement. Faxon pointed to the December board meeting when district administrators said the Wausau- based firm was being used only to design the building.
“These (local contractors) are our neighbors and friends who regularly give up their time and resources to our district at no cost to us. Their children attend school here and they pay taxes here…they rightfully felt very offended and disrespected.”
“We have plenty of other architects and designers in this community that should have been invited,” said Totten. “The builders association should have been contacted immediately. The fact that we didn’t just fries my mind.”