AC-WH Career Center moves ahead with remodel

AC-WH Career Center moves ahead with remodel

Image Credit: File

Officials at the Ashland County-West Holmes Career Center have started to put together a team to oversee and design a $43 million project to remodel the school building and buy and remodel the Ashland County Service Center building next door for adult education programs and administrative offices.

Treasurer and chief financial officer Julie Smith told the school’s board of education at its regular meeting on March 17 that three companies have been selected to present qualifications and be interviewed for the project position of construction manager at risk.

According to Smith, Ohio law provides three ways to deal with public construction projects: the traditional design, bid and build; design/build, where an architectural firm is hired to design a project, hire construction companies and oversee construction; and construction manager at risk. Smith said the construction manager at risk has the discretion to coordinate a plan, coordinate construction and oversee all phases for the construction of a public building or facility in order to establish a guaranteed maximum price.

Under the construction manager process, the three companies will provide information on pricing, preconstruction fees, how they plan to approach the project and other preproject activities except for the actual cost of the project. Some of the specific items include preconstruction and management fees, the firm’s experience, proposed project staffing, and proposed consultants.

A four-member evaluation committee consisting of career center superintendent Rod Cheyney, Smith and two representatives of the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission will evaluate and score the proposals in terms of pricing and performance, with the high score recommended to the board.

“We have more control over this than we would over bid (specifications), where you have to accept the low bid regardless,” said board member Rick Ewing, who is vice president of operations and planning for Ashland University and a member of the career center’s building and grounds committee.

Smith said the planning process could take up to one year before actual work is started. She said her main concern about the process is how much current inflation rates will affect the total cost and if the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission will cover any excess.

Currently, the OFCC has committed $10.9 million in state funding toward the portion of the project that involves remodeling of the current school building.

Career center officials have been working on the facility improvement project since 2019 after the OFCC put the school at the top of the list of career-technical schools for state aid to improve existing facilities. Voters in Ashland and Holmes counties approved a 1.1 mill permanent improvement levy in November to pay for the work.

In a separate but related presentation, Smith proposed that the board establish a capital projects fund that could be used to hold extra funds such as any money from a current property tax case involving assets of the Rover Pipeline, which runs through the vocational district. She said the money could be used for items such as unexpected costs or cost overruns on the remodeling project, to pay down construction debt, or to be set aside for future facility improvements.

Smith was asked if the money in the capital projects fund could be used for projects such as developing a lab to teach how to repair electric cars or for a new paint spray booth. “Under the law the funds are for the acquisition, construction or improvement of fixed assets,” Smith said.

The board asked Smith to prepare paperwork for consideration at its next meeting on April 21.

In other action the career center board of education approved administrative salary and benefit schedules for the 2021-22, 2022-23 and 2023-24 contract years for nine positions. The positions include the principal, assistant principal, adult education director, maintenance supervisor, technology supervisor, secretary to the superintendent and treasurer, assistant to the treasurer, the marketing and public relations coordinator, and the adult education secretary.

Cheyney said pay raises in the administrative salary and benefit schedule are similar to those approved last month for the Ashland Vocational Teachers’ Association.

The board also tabled a motion to pay a $21,298 invoice from Brickler and Eckler LLC after Smith said the figure was significantly over the “not to exceed” figure allowable under Ohio Revised Code. Board members want to know if all the listed expenses are justified and reasonable.

The career center board also approved an April 7 out-of-state trip by the culinary careers management class to Louisville, Kentucky for a campus visit to Sullivan University. Cheyney said the class will tour the campus and work with the culinary program staff for about three hours and get some additional training.

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