School board explores bond management concepts
Bruce Kracl, manager of the operations and maintenance department for the Shawnee Mission School District, has been through the bond process before.
Kracl brought his experience to the USD 491 Board of Education Thursday night during a special session as they took their first steps toward a possible 2008 bond issue.
Kracl advised the board on the administrative options for the project and offered advice on how to go about hiring an architect.
When advising on the administrative side of the project, he briefed the board on the relative advantages of using a program manager for projects over a construction manager and vice versa.
As Kracl presented the pros and cons for each option, he also delineated their relative duties during the bond process.
The first option he suggested was a program manager, or a person that would act as a general overseer for the project.
"One thing you can have the program manager do is help you sell the program to the public," Kracl said.
The program manager would also help unify standards for the project. For instance, the program manager would make sure the district would keep details consistent, like using identical light fixtures.
"When you're doing more than one project at a time you might want to establish standards," Kracl said.
The program manager would also oversee the design stage of the project -- including making sure all standards were met for the city and fire marshal, and serving as a liaison between the district and contractors.
"I think for Eudora, for the location, you've got contractors available in the Kansas City metro area, and you've got a lot of contractors in Topeka," Kracl said. "There's a lot of construction out there," Kracl said.
The program manager would enforce the timeline for the overall project.
"The last three percent of the job is sometimes the hardest part of the job to get completed," Kracl said.
Should the district decide to put the bond in the hands of a program manager, they would then decide they would need.
One option would be for the district to hire an architect, which might make it easier for the district to sell the plan, Kracl said.
"Design is their expertise, so their strength is going to be experts in design," Kracl said.
Conversely, the district could hire a construction company to manage the project.
"You're going to get a more basic designed building, but maybe that's what you want," Kracl said.
Kracl also discussed the relative advantages of hiring a single person or a group to manage the project and focused on the value of using a construction manager.
He said a construction manager would have an advantage in regard to scheduling, budget administration and broad specific resources, but would have much more basic design skills.
When the Board discussed the first presentation, the issue between using an architect or a construction company -- if they decided to use a program manager -- boiled down to form versus function.
"An architect might do a good job of selling the bond, but might not do the best job of providing cost elements," Superintendent Marty Kobza said.
The Board looked at the overall cost of having a program manager.
The annual salary for a program manager would range from $60,000 to $80,000 or about 1.5 to 2.5 percent of the overall bond, Kracl said.
"Look at it as overhead for your program," Kracl said. "Instead of in-house, you've hired a firm or an individual to do it for you."
When discussion continued, Kobza suggested an alternative.
"I think we can save money. I also think we can save time if we can separate some if it out," Kobza said.
Kobza's alternative was to use a combination of the program manager and the construction manager methodologies while keeping at least a share of the work in-house. It would also mean Kobza would take a much larger role in the bond initiative.
"It's a little different than building a new high school," Kracl said. "You're doing work on all campuses, potentially at the same time."
The implications of taking a combined approach became apparent to the Board.
"I would have the same concern you do now, the temptation we can handle some of this stuff in-house," said Board member Mark Chrislip. "But, that puts a lot of stretch on people that probably isn't necessary or efficient."
A dual approach such as that probably wouldn't work if all the projects happened at once, Kracl said.
"If you're doing everything at the same time I think you need an overall program manager," Kracl said.
The district could have a construction manager for each school project, then a program manager to handle the work that's left, Kracl said.
"You can mix those up, but you can mix them up on the basis of what you think is the most efficient and what you think you can handle in-house to do that," Kracl said.
The key factor, Kracl said, is the district's timeline for the project. Once the district has a timeline, then they can come to a consensus on how to exactly to administrate the bond issue.
The district will discuss the timeline as part of its next board meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 8 at the district office, 1002 Elm St.