By Rosemary K. Otzman
At its March 10 regular meeting, the Van Buren Public Schools Board of Education approved four contracts for $1.18 million in Sinking Funds to upgrade school infrastructure in time for classes next fall.
Eric Dumont, of Plante Moran CRESA gave an overview of the projects that have been completed or are in their final stages from the 2013 Sinking Fund.
Then he went over plans for use of the 2014 Sinking Fund.
Voters approved the Sinking Fund in November 2008 and the tax brings in from $1.2 million to $1.5 million a year, Dumont said, adding it reduces strain on the general fund when problems arise.
Board members agreed they wouldn’t be able to afford upgrades to the schools and be proactive without the Sinking Fund approved by voters. That money can be only used for building upgrades and repairs throughout the district.
The district had gone out for bids on the 2014 projects and on Monday the board approved:
• $559,845 contract to Fuller Mechanical for the Owen Intermediate School Mechanical System and Controls Upgrade Project. The other bidder, Conti Mechanical, had bid $634,798;
• $316,228 contract to DeMaria Building Company for the Owen and McBride Toilet Room Project. DeMaria had bid $196,390 for Owen and Davenport Brothers had bid $210,514. DeMaria had bid $119,838 for McBride and Davenport had bid $128,150. The district took the low bids and combined the projects. They are rebuilding eight student toilet rooms at Owen and six at McBride;
• $107,814 contract to low-bidder Allied Building Services for the Owen and McBride School Classroom Lighting Fixture Replacement Project. There were four bidders on the Owen and McBride projects and the two schools were combined in Allied’s contract; and
• $192,356 contract to Hewitt Co., Inc. for the Owen Glass and Glazing Replacement Project. The other bidder was Peterson Glass Co. at $330,032.
Board Treasurer Sherry Frazier voted against giving the toilet room project at McBride and Owen to the low bidder and said she was in favor of using local businesses.
“Davenport Brothers are more than capable,” she said.
“I wouldn’t want to defend that to taxpayers,” said Board Vice President Martha Toth, pointing out that the Davenport bids were $23,000 higher.
Dumont said in discussions after the bidding Davenport stood by its bid.
Frazier said it would give a lot more goodwill in the community if they chose Davenport.
“We’re following our policy,” Toth said, adding that a local bidder had to be within 5%.
“I don’t care about policy,” Frazier replied.
“This is closer to 9%,” said Trustee Scott Russell.
In discussion about the Owen glazing bids, Dumont said Hewitt was able to bid lower because Peterson is a union company.
Trustee Russell asked how Dumont was able to attribute the higher bid to union labor and Dumont said in the formal sit-down with contractors you are able to find out where the differences are.
“One of the bigger factors is labor costs,” Dumont said.
“Did I mention we’re in Michigan and Michigan is a union state?” Frazier said to Dumont. She admonished Dumont for mentioning union costs and asked him not to mention the union next time.
In other business, the board:
• Approved a three-year, $41,400 per year contract with The Guidance Center for its Head Start classes to move into six vacant classrooms at Haggerty School for classes this fall. Head Start will use the classrooms plus two offices and one parent room, totaling about 6,900 square feet of the facility and share space for the kitchen, gymnasium and playground. There still are 11 vacant classrooms at Haggerty School. John Perfetti, Director of Properties for The Guidance Center, and Rebecca Ross, administrator at Haggerty, were present to answer questions;
• Approved getting a new web provider for the 2014-15 school year, moving from SchoolFusion, which no longer does updates, to School Wires, at a cost of $19,340, with an expected E-Rate reimbursement of 70%. School Supt. Michael Van Tassel said there had been a lot of frustrations with their current system;
• Unanimously approved another contract year for School Supt. Van Tassel, extending his contract until June 30, 2016. Trustee Kathy Kovach said Van Tassel would automatically get another year if they did nothing, but she wanted to show the board’s support by voting on his contract. “I appreciate what Mr. Van Tassel has done in a pretty short time,” she said. “We can show our support and appreciation by voting to renew his contract for another year,” she said and then made the motion, which was seconded by Frazier;
• Received copies of the 2009 Final Bond Audit Report for the high school construction project. The report has been filed with the state and was due within 120 days of substantial completion of the project, which was Oct. 10;
• Approved the retirement of 22-year teacher Lizabeth Martin from Belleville High School as of April 1; and approved the resignation of Holly Ulrich, a one-year teacher at Haggerty School, as of Feb. 28;
• Presented a certificate of appreciation to Vice President Martha Toth to mark her attainment of Level 3 status after taking 208 credit hours of classes from the Michigan Association of School Boards;
• Heard Toth give a legislative update on pending state bills that affect education; and
• Heard Trustee Russell announce that “Little Red Riding Hood” is being presented Friday at Owen Intermediate School. He said his daughter was playing the grandmother.
By Rosemary K. Otzman