Your recent articles in the Union-Bulletin on the Walla Walla High School bond brought me out of a self-imposed silence on concerns I have about school construction in Walla Walla. I am a certified construction manager with Construction Management Association of America and I have performed as owner’s agent on school projects in districts such as Touchet and Waitsburg.
I acted as city of Walla Walla construction manager on the recently completed Walla Walla Police Department. I made a presentation to Walla Walla Public Schools capital projects steering committee on “alternative delivery systems” that have been used in multiple school projects by the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
These are acceptable methods to approach the logistics involved in the Wa-Hi project to achieve the public support necessary to get a supermajority required to pass the bond levy.
I have been a proponent for 20 years for WWPS making a conscious decision to stop sending public tax dollars out of town on capital projects for school facilities. This isn’t a simple process nor will it be an easy sell to the voting citizenry. If WWPS would commit to hiring a local construction manager to help evaluate a phased project prioritization for Wa-Hi with its intention to focus on the importance of emphasizing participation by local general contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and labor force in modernization of this essential facility for the education of our youths. This could have significant benefit to our local economy. It will definitely require a departure from the old paradigm that being the design-bid-build method of school construction.
These methods have been utilized effectively by School District No. 81 in Spokane. The general contractor/construction manager is where WWPS calls for proposals from general contractors to provide proposals to assist school district in developing the plan to establish scope of work, schedules and project estimates for the project.
Major work packages performed by prime contractors would still be sent to the marketplace for competitive bids. The chosen general contractor works with a design team to find the best combination of elements for the task. This has been utilized at Whitman College successfully on capital projects.
We need to take advantage of the challenge faced by WWPS to explore opportunities to think outside the box. We need to come up with a plan that builds consensus and acknowledges people want to see more accountability and fiscal responsibility in modernizing Wa-Hi.