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Modular purchase exempt from low-bid rule

The North Wasco County School District 21 Board agreed to allow the district superintendent to consider more factors than just low bid when considering options for four new modular buildings.

The structures will be installed at Dry Hollow and Chenowith elementary schools in preparation for the district’s move to all-day kindergarten in time for the fall 2014 school year.

While the purchase orders for the four modulars were submitted in late December at an estimated cost of about $104,000 each, it now falls to the board to solicit experienced contractors in the area and secure a team that will be able to install them in accordance with state regulations by the beginning of school.

District Operations Director Dennis Whitehouse presented the resolution at a special meeting March 31.

The standard bidding process, the resolution states, “does not permit the district to consider factors other than price in the award of contracts.” Whitehouse said that it is in the district’s best interests to allow Superintendent Candy Armstrong to proceed on behalf of the district and pursue an exemption so that other significant factors can be included in the decision-making process.

The exemption’s advantages, as stated in the resolution, are based on the board’s findings that it is “unlikely to encourage favoritism in the award of public contracts or substantially diminish competition because the work requires special expertise.”

The “specialized expertise” the installation work will require has to do with a myriad of site-specific challenges and the overall “complexity of connecting to existing infrastructure” that will need to take place in to get the modulars up and running. The findings presented in the resolution state that due to these factors, the work will therefore “require a higher than normal level of expertise” as a result.

In addition, the resolution says that a “competitive request for proposal will be open to all qualified contractors currently operating in the local market,” while the work itself will be funded through the district’s capital projects fund.

District officials hope to have installation work on the modulars completed before children return to school in the fall, Armstrong said today.

“We’re going to start work ASAP, as soon as we can get through the proposal process,” Armstrong said, noting that some of the site work may start before school is over to make that possible.

Carol Roderick, vice chair of the board, asked whether there were any impending deadlines to consider related to the contracts.

Whitehouse said that while there are technical deadlines in place for the contractor, they function as little more than “slight scare tactics” and are generally “almost unenforceable.”

“Typically,” he said, in reference to the potential late charges, “we might see about $1,000 a day in damages.”

Responding to questions specifically related to construction by board member Robert Bissonette, Whitehouse said the modulars will be set on wooden piers and make use of water lines and sewer connections located near the existing modulars on both sites. Addition of gravel pathways, he said, would provide the access routes.

The resolution passed 4-2 with board members John Nelson, Ernie Blatz, Robert Bissonnette and Dean McAllister in support and Carol Roderick and Eric Nerdin both voting against.

To learn more about the current state of the board’s progress in preparing the for all-day kindergarten transition, visit the district website or learn how to contact board members at www.nwasco.


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