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Board approves $22M in SHS contracts

The hallway between the locker rooms and gymnasium at Superior High School sits stripped of all its lockers Wednesday afternoon as demolition work continues at the high school. Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com

The Superior School Board approved $22.1 million in contracts for the Superior High School construction project Monday. Only one Superior-based company made the list. Four Star Construction Inc. was awarded a more than $1.9 million contract for rough carpentry work.

Of the 31 contracts awarded Monday, Superior companies bid on only two of them, according to information provided by the district. Four Star was the only bidder for rough carpentry. Superior Glass Inc. bid for the aluminum entrances, storefronts, curtain walls and glazing contract but lost out to St. Germain's Glass of Duluth, which was the low bidder by $43,437.

All of the contracts went to either the low bidder or the only bidder. One item, steel supply, was held and will be awarded at a later date. The focus was on base bids.

"We are putting all alternates on hold until at least June 5 Board meeting," said District Administrator Janna Stevens. "We have to ensure we are confident with all the base bids before considering alternates."

Fifteen of the contracts awarded Monday went to Duluth companies. Northstar Insulation of Hermantown was awarded a $114,233 contract for foamed in place insulation. The other 14 contracts went to out-of-area companies, many of them for specialized items like food service and athletic equipment, elevators, pool plumbing and bleachers.

Project manager Kraus-Anderson also became a contractor. The Duluth-based construction firm and sole bidder was awarded the selective demolition contract for $535,000. No company bid on the work, which Senior Project Manager Patrick Gallagher said has a very chopped-up work scope with sporadic small jobs. But some of the work needed to be done immediately.

"After we put it out to the public and didn't get bids, we asked permission of the Project Oversight Committee and actually the Board at the last board meeting, if you would consider having us do that," Gallagher said.

The work they've started May 1 and has included removing lockers from the school.

"I put stipulations on it," said Board President Len Albrecht. "I didn't want the fox running the henhouse, so they do the work but then they have to submit timesheets to Gary (Niemi, district buildings and grounds director)."

"And it's time and material, not a lump sum," Albrecht said. "It's strictly time spent on it, whatever time is spent on the job we get billed for it, if it comes in under that amount, we get that, that money goes back to us."

Contracts awarded to date total $43.6 million for the high school project. Costs yet to be factored in include an estimated $1.1 million for steel fabrication, about $350,000 for asbestos abatement at Cooper Elementary School and $1.2 million for furniture, fixtures and equipment, Board members said.

The estimated cost for the entire renovation and construction project was set at $57 million.

William Stack, owner of Stack Brothers Mechanical of Superior, addressed the Board. He expressed frustration that the $10.6 million mechanical and plumbing contract for SHS was awarded to Duluth-based Jamar Company last month despite the fact that the Stack Brothers had the low bid.

"I think this board has the fiduciary responsibility to spend taxpayer's dollars in a very responsible manner," Stack said. "You overspent by $188,000, in my opinion."

Although contracts are typically awarded to the low bidder, companies vying for the mechanical and electrical contracts for the SHS project went through a more rigorous "best value" assessment, which included both pre- and post-bid interviews.

Stack said he's bid out close to 3,000 jobs in his 40 years of construction experience, but this was the first time he's encountered the "best value" assessment model.

"I feel the taxpayers have not been given a good, fair shake on this," Stack said. "The taxpayers, candidly, I think, were misled by this referendum, by being told that you would be buying local, that you would be going with the low bid."

Superior City Council President and Labors Local 1091 business manager Dan Olson spoke, but as a citizen who supported the $92.5 million referendum for a new Cooper Elementary School and the high school renovation.

"When you ask me to support something, you ask my family to support something and you ask my friends and neighbors to support something; I do want something back out of it," Olson said. "It's the people who live here and work here to work on these projects, invest in ourselves and I don't think we're doing that."

Albrecht and Vice-President Christina Kintop said the Board didn't just rubber stamp Krause-Anderson's bid recommendation, which took into account the bidding companies' proximity to Superior as well as value-engineering ideas presented at a post-bid interview.

"They brought forward the reasoning behind it," Albrecht said. "If it's a good recommendation, do we not go with it?"

Stack said many of the same workers would be tapped, regardless of which company won the contract. The difference, he said in a phone interview, is that he and his employees pay about half a million dollars' worth of taxes a year in the city.

According to a break-down from Kraus-Anderson, about 79.4 percent of the general contracts that have been awarded for the school, more than $37 million, have gone to businesses in the Twin Ports area. Iron Range contractors have secured 3.4 percent — about $85,000 — and out-of-area contractors have nabbed 17.2 percent, or $4.2 million.

That number excludes specialty contractors not available in the Twin Ports, who have snagged roughly $8.8 million in contracts.

In other business:

• The Board approved an increase in the price of elementary school lunches. The cost will rise to $2.25, a change of 15 cents, effective July 1. All other meal prices will remain unchanged.

• Superior High School Assistant Principal Mike Matejka was tapped to be principal of Northern Lights Elementary School, effective July 1. He will take over from retiring Principal Robyn Deshayes.

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