Slip-up Delays School Building Project Designer Selection


Wildwood School. Photo: Toni Cunningham

An error has led to a six-week delay in getting a designer on board for the elementary school building project. 

At a 21-minute Elementary School Building Committee (ESBC) meeting on August 23, which had been originally scheduled to review designer applications, Committee Chair Cathy Schoen said that a requirement of the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to advertise the Request for Proposals for a designer in the local newspaper did not happen. In order to be in compliance with the state funding authority’s rules, an advertisement will be placed in the Daily Hampshire Gazette on August 25 and the bid response window will be extended, with applications now due September 9. 

According to Project Manager Margaret Wood of Anser Advisory, the full ESBC will review the designer applications at their next meeting in late September and their comments will be summarized for the three committee members — Schoen, Superintendent Michael Morris and School Committee member Ben Herrington — who will represent Amherst on the 16-member MSBA Designer Selection Panel

The agendas for October meetings of the panel were already full, so the designer applications will now be reviewed and shortlisted by the MSBA panel on November 2 instead of the previously-scheduled September 14. Interviews of the shortlisted firms will be held by the panel on November 16, with selection of the preferred designer expected immediately following the interviews. A contract is to be negotiated shortly thereafter. This means a designer should be on board by late November, six weeks later than had been planned.

Schoen also made reference to the (13-member) ESBC being down two members. Fort River School Principal Diane Chamberlain and Town Procurement Officer Anthony Delaney, who both filled committee roles that are designated by the MSBA (School Principal and Massachusetts Certified Public Procurement Official), resigned this summer. Town Manager Paul Bockelman said that his nominations for their replacements on the committee will go to the Town Council for approval in September. (Another ESBC member, Town Councilor Steve Schreiber, will likely need to step down in January when a new Town Council is seated as he is not seeking re-election.)

The ESBC unanimously approved payment of the first two invoices totalling $11,720 for project management services rendered in June and July.

An Educational Plan for the new school is being written by Morris and his staff but it has not yet been discussed at a public meeting. Schoen told the committee that she had spoken with School Committee Chairperson Allison McDonald about potential joint meetings on topics relevant to both the ESBC and the School Committee. Tentative dates will be shared at the next ESBC meeting, scheduled for Thursday September 23 at 8:00 am. 

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