Wember Inc. attended the board meeting on February 16, 2010 held at the Department of Education office located at 1200 Grant Street in Denver. The meeting was well attended by submitting agencies, Owner’s Representatives, design professionals, and contractors. The meeting started with a follow up to the discussion of North Routt Charter School who was recently denied the grant funds due to a failure to meet the requirements of the matching funds. North Routt requested that the committee to prioritize their projects at the time the match funds are produced. The committee decided to put approved projects like Mapleton and North Routt at the top of the list for consideration but would not agree to prioritize the projects.
Much time was spent discussing the programs intention and future. At this meeting it was presented that the sources that fund the BEST program including the Colorado Lottery and Land Trust Reserve are seeing significantly reduced revenue which in term impacts funds available for the BEST program. The lottery funds are anticipated to be $0 his year when normally they are projected to be $2 to $12 million. Causing the drop in funding is a lack of large jackpots and increased expenses. The land trust is also reporting increased expenses and lower income due to a coal mine in Routt County reaching the end of its production life and oil and gas revenues being down. The board has asked that the organizations present at the next meeting to help them understand the upcoming funding stream or lack thereof. No discussions reflected that this news would impact the funding of the projects that are being proposed in 2010.
The second part of the meeting shifted to the Statewide Facility Assessment. These assessments were completed by Parsons who took on the monumental task of reviewing 5,500 (130,000,000 sf) facilities across the state. The review included approximately 215 key items per building. At this point there is a strong need to resolve some health and life safety issues in the schools. The BEST program is working on a 1-5 ranking (1 most needy) system that allows the reviewers to understand the critical nature of projects being submitted. These rankings will become a critical component to the program. The BEST members and staff light heartedly presented the fact that they do not want the program to turn into the BEST roof replacement plan.
The final part f the meeting included the serious issue of operational costs that come along with building a new facility. The BEST members addressed their concerns regarding how the facilities will be managed upon their completion. It was discussed that as part of their submission schools should provide reserve/replacement studies for their projects to identify capital expenditures that will impact their bottom line as the buildings age. Schools will also need to supply a maintenance plan. Finally submitting parties should attempt to prove their ability to manage capital funds and a have a plan for allocating capital funds on the new projects.
Where could this be going? Wember Inc. believes that although the goal of the BEST program is to replace old buildings with new as a preference the comment of turning into a roof replacement plan may be closer to the truth. The fact that the review committee will be forced to prioritize buildings that have health and life safety issues will consume major portions of the funding and put large new schools at a lower ranking. More stringent requirements for submissions to prove they have they have the ability to manage the facilities upon completion is another added hurdle. Although the BEST program clearly does not want to throw money at old buildings that should be replaced they must consider the fact that not all schools can find a way to come up with a match on a large projects and will opt for the repair. The BEST program will have a hard time saying no to a health issue in our opinion. If you are submitting note that the selection committee stated that the hardship letters this year need to be more unique as all can easily say that health care costs have increased, sales tax revenues are down, and insurance costs are up. What makes you unique, hopefully a life safety issue.
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