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School Board president ‘clarifies’ misunderstandings

In recent weeks, there has been a lot of discussion about the district’s choice of Facilities Cost Management Group (FCMG) as a consultant in a potential district building project.I hope this letter clarifies a few of the misunderstandings that are in the community.  First, before any contracts were signed, the district had its attorney review and modify them as he best saw fit to meet our needs.  In addition, some of the board members personally visited several of the projects that FCMG had done and visited with local superintendents face to face to learn what their experience was with FCMG.  In all instances the question was asked, “Did they do what they said they would do?”  The answer was always the same: Yes.  The districts received quality buildings at a cost that was lower than other similar projects that were happening at the same time.  Further calls and contacts were made to other districts that had done projects with FCMG to see what their experiences were.  Second, there has been a lot of talk about two projects that FCMG was involved in a lawsuit with the school.  The first lawsuit is with the South Tama School District.  In this case, the district hired FCMG to do some preliminary work with them for a bond vote.  They had paid FCMG for this service, but FCMG felt they were owed for more services.  The court ruled that because they didn’t have a contract for any additional work with FCMG after the bond vote, they only owed FCMG $2,500 above what they had already paid.  We are in a different situation.  Our district is under a contract with FCMG that if a bond issue is passed, they will become the owner’s representative for the project and be entitled to a fee for their services.  The current estimate the district has to terminate this contract is $450,000.  This would also require us to start over in the process by hiring another architect.  In the second lawsuit, FCMG sued the Otoe County Schools (Nebraska City, Neb.).  In this project, the district believed they had a maximum price guarantee no matter what changes were made to the scope and/or size of the project.  After the project was started, the district changed the size and scope of the project.  I think we could all agree that if we asked one of our local contractors to do more work than what they had originally quoted us, we would expect to pay more for the additional work.  This company has been in business for 30 years and has worked on at least 50 projects since the year 2000.  We have found three lawsuits involving them in that time and in all three they were not the defendants.  They have agreed to clarify and address in writing any areas of concern with the current contract to avoid any misunderstandings with our project.  Third, there has been a lot of discussion about the fees that FCMG would charge.  It’s important to understand that the amount of the bonds that the voters approve is the maximum amount the board can borrow for the project.  Under Iowa law, that is all the board can borrow for the project and must include all fees and services.  If bids come in higher, the board will have to change the project if they can and still meet what the voters approved, or not do the project at all.  Under this contract, the amount is $15 per square foot of the project.  As everyone who was present at the last meeting heard, this includes “all architectural and engineering services” including the architects who will provide the technical drawings.   These fees are included in all cost estimates that have been presented.  FCMG has agreed to put in writing any areas of concern or confusion related to their fees and costs to make sure everyone clearly understands what they will be to avoid any problems in the future.  As the board considers its future relationship with FCMG, I would like to encourage anyone that has any other questions, concerns, or comments about FCMG to contact any board member, Mr. Jurrens, or myself to get the most accurate information.  We appreciate all of the community’s input as we continue to do what is best for the students and taxpayers in our district. 

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