During the Chillicothe R-II School Board meeting on June 18, the board voted unanimously to accept a bid for repairs to Field Elementary School, which was $9,300 higher than a bid from a company, which was apparently recommended by the Allstate Consultants LLC, an engineer hired by the district for the job.
The bid notice placed in the Constitution-Tribune asked for bids for repairs, including replacing and repairing portions of a masonry wall, adding three steel columns, installation of steel support brackets at existing steel joints, concrete repairs, grading, tree removal and adding subsurface drain piping along the south and east sides of the building.
Two construction companies, M S Contracting and Case Contracting, LLC, attended the required pre-bid meeting and submitted bids by the stated deadline. The two bids both recognized an addendum and included the required bid bond and representatives from both companies attended the June 18 school board meeting.
The bid from MS Contracting was for $146,000; Case Contracting, LLC submitted a bid for $156,000.
Mike Sattman, owner of MS Contracting out of Brookfield said prior to the June 18 meeting he had, had multiple conversations with the engineer of the job, ensuring all the specifications were met, and even lined up local subcontractors and had arranged to make sure any supplies that could be ordered out of Chillicothe and Livingston County would be done. He also noted he employs the needed certified staff to complete the job.
“I was told that the engineer - hired by the district - would be recommending me to (then) Superintendent Roger Barnes and that he understood Barnes would be recommending to the board that they choose the bid submitted by M S Contracting.”
At the meeting, the board asked representatives of each company two questions, and Barnes did then recommend the board choose M S Contracting as the contractor for the job. However, School Board member Pat Jones made the motion that the board accept the bid from Case Contracting, LLC, in the amount of $156,000.
“I was shocked,” Sattman said.
Sattman said he does not dispute the ability of Case Contracting, LLC, to do quality work and complete the job.
“My issue is using $9,300 of taxpayers money that doesn’t have to be used for this project,” Sattman said. “On top of that my company was recommended by both the engineer paid by the district and the superintendent. Why pay an engineer if you are not taking their advice, and why spend taxpayers money when you do not have too?”
When contacted before his June 30 retirement, then Superintendent Barnes did not return calls from the Constitution-Tribune in regards to this matter.
When a message was left for School Board President Lauren Horstman seeking comment on the matter from the school board, Horstman deferred the call to Superintendent Dan Wiebers, on his first day on the job.
Wiebers who attended the June 18 school board meeting as “an observer,” said the board was selecting the bidder based off of the lowest cost and most responsible bid.
“The board felt the company awarded the bid (Case Contracting, LLC) made a better, more responsible bid. Both companies were questioned that evening and the other company (M S Contracting) wasn’t as thorough with their answers.”
“We were asked two questions and then the vote was made,” Sattman said.
Sattman, a former Brookfield School Board member says he understands the issues schools are facing with funding, and also understands he is not from Chillicothe, but does support the community, and had all Chillicothe subcontractors in line for the job.
The Chillicothe R-II Schools are currently using a deficit budget and are entering the current budget year with just over 13 percent in the reserves, which members admitted at a June 27 meeting was “worrisome.” In April area voters struck down the district's request for an 80-cent levy increase.
The board has discussed taking the levy increase issues to voters again in November in order to help combat the increase in costs and underfunding from the state, which Barnes said during his time with the district amounted to $1.737 million.
Wiebers said the board makes all finical decisions carefully.
“I think it is very important to know that the board thought about this decision, and made the decision based on what was in the best interest of the district and the students in this district,” he said.
Sattman, disagrees not only with that statement, but the reasoning for over-spending on a project. His attorney has sent a letter to the Chillicothe R-II School District and at the time of publication had not gotten a response back, and depending on the response Sattman said he and his attorney will determine the next steps.
Work on the Field Elementary School project has begun, as Wiebers noted there is a tight turnaround.
“The work needs to be done before school starts as there will need to be clean-up and teachers are wanting to get in the building to prepare the school and classrooms before school starts,” he said.