Implementation of FMP External Review Recommendations
Capital improvements moving forward: FMP External Review recommendations being implemented presented to the Board of Education
At the December 10, 2019, Special Board of Education meeting, Board members were presented with a status update on various capital-improvement projects that were put on hold earlier this year. The projects were paused at the direction of Superintendent Joe Gothard who announced his plan on May 21 to conduct an extensive review of the Facilities Master Plan’s processes and procedures to ensure adherence to industry best practices. This review process was conducted by a team of external advisors over this past summer and the results were shared with the Board and public at a regular Board meeting on October 22, along with an extensive report.
Since then, the projects that were put on hold were revisited so that recommendations made by the External Review Team could be applied to the scopes of work and related cost estimates. The Board update highlights how some of the recommendations have been implemented in the Facilities Department’s protocols and processes, including increasing the Board’s oversight which will now have a minimum of five gate checks at key phases of a project’s development, from concept to completion.
The Facilities Department has been working with Jacobs Engineering, one of the organizations that conducted the FMP review, to integrate key recommendations in FMP processes, in particular applying appropriate contingencies—between 5% to 20%—at different phases of project development. Per industry best practices, to ensure a project has ample funds to cover unknowns and unforeseen conditions that may emerge during the project, cost contingencies are added into cost estimates to account for risks. These risks may include the discovery of contaminated soil, asbestos, mold, or wide-spread issues with plumbing and electrical systems, among other factors. This risk discovery period is built into the phases of the project at a particular percentage of the estimated cost of the project. As the phases proceed and more building and site information is uncovered, the contingency levels decrease. (For more information, see this handout on the Phases of Major Capital Project Development from Design to Construction.)
Integrating these contingency figures means the project budgets will be more precise. It is important to note that an estimated project cost should not be conflated with a project budget; rather, a project budget comes at the end stage of the development of a work scope as greater investigative work is conducted on the building condition and site whereby the refinement of the related budget evolves from an initial rough estimate to a cost estimate to a final budget.
As a result of the external review, going forward, the funding schedule will be aligned to the construction phases to ensure that the District will not overreach its $112M annual bonding level the District has chosen to maintain in order to be fiscally responsible. This means that some projects may take longer to be completed as the annual budget must be spread across several competing projects—the District owns 73 buildings. The projects that were presented to the Board include:
- American Indian Magnet (addition and remodel)
- Bruce Vento (re-visioning)
- District Service Facility (addition and remodel)
- Frost Lake Elementary (remodel)
- Johnson High School (building systems)
- Phalen Lake Hmong Studies (remodel)
- Washington Technology Magnet (athletic improvements)
- District-wide A/V
- District-wide cameras
- Window Replacements
- Roof Replacements
- Other Small Miscellaneous Projects
The Board presentation was only informational. No action was requested from the Board. However, administration will bring a request for action to the Board within the next 90 to 120 days. This timeline anticipates the optimal period to put projects out for competitive construction bids in the spring and provides the Board with additional opportunities to review the progress of incorporating recommendations from the external review process.
By not advancing these projects to the bidding phase, the District risks further delaying the projects an additional year by missing the optimal bidding window. In addition, further delay will increase project costs by 5% due to inflation (± $6M increase). The District is in the process of validating all scopes and budgets of the major projects that have been paused, many of which have now been in the design phase for 15 months.
As Dr. Gothard has emphasized, the external review process was an opportunity for the District to learn and identify precisely what systems and practices needed to be adjusted so that we can continue this transformative work for the sake of our students, school communities, and the people of Saint Paul. Providing high-quality, inspiring learning environments that will serve the needs of generations to come is an investment in all our futures.