The Mabel-Canton School Board held a special meeting on January 11, to deal with bids on Phase Two of the facilities project. All voting members participated (Dustin Tollefsrud participated via remote technology). Also in attendance was Chad Pike, representing the engineering firm of Kraus Anderson.
Superintendent Gary Kuphal explained the situation, saying that in December, the only bid received on the mechanical portion of the project had come in significantly higher than planned, so it was rejected, and bids were again sought. Kuphal stated that again, only one bid was received, and it was actually higher than the previous bid. He speculated on reasons why there weren’t more bidders. Kuphal said that one potential bidder, based in Rochester, had accepted a large project in Rochester, so that company wasn’t really interested in picking up another project further from their base. He said this could also explain why other potential bidders were not bidding on the project, as they likely had other work closer to home. Pike added that this is always a challenge in rural areas.
Kuphal and Pike described the current situation. They said the district has roughly $2.907 million left in the project budget, but the bids for the remaining work total $4.859 million, so the shortfall is nearly $2 million. Kuphal said in order to get those two numbers to match up, “You can either increase your revenue or decrease your expenses.” He said the only viable way he knows to increase revenue would be that the district could borrow against the $100,000 in annual Longterm Facility Maintenance dollars (LTFM). But he said if the district were to borrow more than $300,000 of that, it begins to leave the district with very little “wiggle room” left for any LTFM needs that may arise over the next decade.
Kuphal said the board needs to choose between two options. The first option is to reject all bids, and then wait a year or two to again seek bids. He said it’s likely that costs would be higher in the future, but that’s not always true. The second option, he explained, would be to look at the project area by area, and cull out some portions, to decrease the overall cost.
Kuphal shared that there are basically five areas in the current proposed project. Area 1 is the 1914 building; Area 2 is the 1935 building; Area 3 is the 1955 and 1975 building and gym area; Area 4 is the 1999 Elementary; and Area 5 is the 1999 building/gym. Kuphal suggested that the most logical “scaled down” version of the project, in the current situation, would be to do Areas 1, 4 & 5. He said this scaled down plan would give air conditioning to the areas where students spend most of their time.
Kuphal stressed that the committee discussed the situation at length, and he stated, “Lots of people spent lots of time on this. And given the circumstances of where we’re at, unfortunately I see this as maybe the best recommendation I can offer.” But he added that the board should be open to questions and concerns and ideas from the public.
Chris Miller said he had felt that he knew what needed to occur, but the higher bid “threw a curve ball in it all.” He wondered aloud if other bidders could weigh in, but then realized the closing date for bids has already passed, so there isn’t a legal option to request another bid, unless the entire bidding process were to be reopened. After discussion, the board voted to move forward with only Areas 1, 4 & 5 of the project, with windows.
Principal Michelle Wiedemann spoke to the board about new guidelines from the CDC regarding COVID. She shared suggestions from the COVID Committee, but said the ultimate decision rests with the school board. After discussion, the board voted to adopt the recommendations for the first two topics listed (If your child is positive for COVID-19, and Close Contact: Household Member) but not to adopt the recommendations related to Close Contact: Non-Household Member. The school will work on communicating the current guidelines to all applicable groups.
The board’s next meeting will be January 18 at 6 p.m. The public is welcome.