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Further discussion needed on construction manager

Stock construction photo.

While the Dickinson School Board had originally planned on voting whether to hire a construction manager at risk (CMAR) on Tuesday, they decided that the decision warranted more discussion. After Tuesday's meeting, they participated in a workshop with members of a construction company, Dickinson Public Schools' central administration and school administrations.

JEDunn is a construction company that has completed several large construction projects in the area. Most of their work is done as CMAR. Vice President of JEDunn, Marc Mellmer, attended the workshop to provide input on the role of a CMAR, which acts as a consultant during the design and construction of buildings.

One misconception people seem to have, he said, is that a CMAR is the same as a general contractor. Construction through CMAR is relatively new to Dickinson, Mellmer said. Traditionally, construction was done through multiple prime bids.

"You take a mechanical bid; you take an electrical bid, and you take a general contractor's bid, and you put those together, and that's your construction project. That happens after the architect designs a building 100 percent," he said of multiple prime contracts. "People are still stuck in that mindset that you don't hire a contractor until it's done, until those plans are done, and you bid it out, and you take the lowest bid, and that's the guy that goes and does the work."

That isn't the way a CMAR typically operates.

"CMAR contracts still have a competitive process for finding the lowest costs and best values, but they are typically hired while the planning and drawings are still in the early phases. The pricing aspect during that time ensures that the designers are not planning something that the end-user cannot afford once the plans are complete. The CMAR will help earlier on in the process, giving constructability and planning assistance in the pre-construction process as well," Mellmer said.

One of the ways a CMAR can help in the preconstruction process is providing more accurate figures than the estimates given to them by the architect.

"The architect right now is giving just rough square-foot pricing, and once a CMAR is on they can dig into the details of the drawings and give detailed pricing for all of the components of the building," said Mellmer.

An architect will keep drawing in what you want, and the more he draws, the more expensive the project becomes, he said.

"(The architect's) job right now is to go into your high school and say 'what do you want?'" Mellmer said. "They're gonna juice that thing up because they're still wanting to give you everything you can have. They don't want you coming back and saying 'they're not listening to us; they're not giving us our needs. It's going to take a CMAR ... to rein that in."

The CMAR will also provide estimates for an extensive remodel on the current building with additions and a remodel of the building that includes a larger addition and demolition of the pods.

The school board will then have a more accurate estimate of cost to bring to the public prior to their voting on funding whatever form the project may take.

If the bond does not pass, the district is not obligated to complete a building project, and according to Mellmer, this is not an uncommon occurrence.

They may or may not have to pay for the services the CMAR provided before the vote.

"A lot of the CMARs will have preconstruction services that will have minimum fees," said Kent Anderson, business manager, Dickinson Public Schools. "Some of them actually have zero fees, so it just depends on the bid."

If the CMAR does charge for these services, Anderson said, "We have some funds set aside in the building fund budget for this year, and that's likely where it would come out of."

The school board will meet Monday evening to decide whether to authorize the administration to begin advertising for a CMAR, he said.

Community members concerned about the prospect of a new high school can attend a community forum hosted by Dickinson Public Schools in the high school auditorium as well as take a tour of the building, Tuesday, Oct.16.

Tours begin at 6:15 p.m. and are led by students and faculty of DHS. Each tour will be approximately 20 minutes. At 7 p.m., the school board and administration will give a presentation about the issues facing DHS and the possible solutions. A question-and answer- session will immediately follow.

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