SCHOOL BOARD REJECTSÂ BIDS FOR MULTI-USE FACILITY
JEREMY WALTNER – PUBLISHER
A building project first proposed as a wrestling room by Marion/Freeman coach Chris Sayler back in February — and later reimagined as a multi-use facility — remains on hold.
Meeting in special session Tuesday night, Dec. 21, the Freeman School Board voted 4-0 to reject bids for what has since been named The Hanger after construction bids came in considerably higher than expected.
Cody Fransen was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
The board agreed to revisit — and likely rebid the project — next year.
Two bids were submitted for the multi-use facility proposed to be built east of the Freeman Elementary gym and west of the bus lane. The lowest came from Vision Construction Group of Tea with a base bid of $1,550,000. A second bid in the amount of $1,682,400 was submitted by WS Construction Management of Sioux Falls. Those bids did not include six possible alternative add-ons ranging from a flooring finish to windows to a heated sidewalk, which would add tens of thousands of dollars onto the cost of the project if approved.
Freeman Public has been working with a $1.2 million budget for the multi-use facility, with a cap of $1.3 million.
That puts the low bid $250,000 over what the district was planning for.
Doug McCune, a member of the school board and building committee, wasn’t surprised with the high bids.
“The market is flooded right now,” he said, noting the cost of materials is soaring and the availability of subcontractors is limited. “I would recommend readvertising and rebidding prior to the end of January. I don’t know if we’re going to hit that budget anymore based on market volatility, but I think we have a much better chance of getting close if we rebid.
“I don’t think we should by any means give up on it.”
Board member Slade Ammann agreed that tabling the discussion was prudent, but suggested waiting six to 12 months before revisiting the issue.
But board member Kyle Weier wondered how big a dent in the budget spending the additional money — and moving forward with the project now — would really be.
“I don’t want to get into trouble where we have to let teachers go,” said business manager Debra Goossen. “If we run into trouble and don’t have (additional resources in) capital, where’s it going to come from? We’re not going to get another opt-out.”
“We set budgets for a reason,” Superintendent Jake Tietje said, reminding the board that the district is also looking at a ballfield project to coincide with girls softball being sanctioned by the South Dakota High School Activities Association beginning in the spring of 2023. “We need to make sure we keep our sights on that project, as well.”
“I think it would be fiscally responsible to reject all bids and see if we can’t get more interest down the road,” board president Emily Andersen said.
“We’re not out anything,” Tietje responded. “It seems like a good, logical decision to go out and try again. If it comes back the same or higher, we can cross whatever bridge we need to when we get there.”
School officials had a plan in place to build the facility last spring in partnership with CO-OP Architecture, which had put together a plan for a 4,458 square-foot facility estimated to cost $500,000. But the board ultimately decided to put the project on hold after McCune, an incoming board member at the time, expressed concerns about the proposal, including the lack of full specifications and inspections from a licensed architect as well as CO-OP Architecture’s 7% fee for oversight of the project, when industry standard was 6%.
In July, after putting out an RFP (Request For Proposal) and on a strong recommendation from McCune, the board voted 5-0 to hire JLG Architects to design the new facility at a rate of 6.5% of total construction costs.
Talks with Marion
The Freeman Public School Board had two other items of business on its Dec. 21 agenda:
One was a discussion about a task force meeting between representatives from Freeman and Marion regarding athletic partnership held earlier on Tuesday — something that has taken on a sense of urgency after the Canistota School Board voted last week to dissolve the Canistota/Freeman football co-op.
Andersen, a member of the task force, said that talks with Marion on hold until early next year because Marion is also in talks with Parker.
“Right now, we’re in a holding pattern with them,” she said at Tuesday’s meeting. “They’re still having conversations with Parker; they’re going to meet with them in early January after the break is over.”
Tietje acknowledged that “our timeline is pretty tight here” — the South Dakota High School Activities Association needs a proposal by the third week of January — but also that “we have to respect that Marion has meetings with another district.”
He also said Freeman Public is waiting to reach back out to Freeman Academy until getting additional information from Marion next month.
“That first week in January could be very exciting,” he said.
New vo-ag teacher
The other action item on Tuesday’s agenda was to approve Malynda Penner as the district’s new vo-ag instructor and FFA advisor for the 2022-23 school year. Penner, who has been the administrative assistant at Freeman Elementary the past nine years, has already stepped in as FFA advisor following the abrupt resignation of vo-ag teacher Jim Kaufman earlier this fall.
That teaching position is being filled by substitutes until Penner steps in starting next fall.
Tietje told The Courier Penner will finish this school year in her current position and the district will advertise for her replacement sometime next year.