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DL school board close to hiring architect for building project

The final two contenders for the referendum architect job presented to the Detroit Lakes School Board Monday night.

YHR Partners out of Moorhead and JLG Architects based in Alexandria took to the drawing board, laying out their plans if they're chosen to take on the mighty task of solving the district's space needs.

Mark Lundberg and Julie Rokke of YHR started their presentation talking about the work they have already done for the district on past referendums.

"We know your buildings very well," said Rokke, adding that they worked extensively on the high school as well as Roosevelt in the 90s. "We've done several schools that are award-winning projects, including Roosevelt."

The firm also has extensive experience on schools in the tri-state area, working on over 100 K-12 building projects in 25 different districts, in which they have both built new schools as well as made additions.

They were similar to the other firms, in that they expressed a desire to build "green" and do things cost-efficiently for the district. Their pre-referendum fee is a flat rate of $4,500, and their project percentage fit anywhere between five and seven percent "depending on the scale of the project."

"If it's a messy remodel that would push it up to seven percent," said Lundberg.

Another piece that stood out from the rest for YHR was its exchange rate, which sat at less than two percent, though many of the actual bids for the projects sat well below its estimates, meaning they saved districts substantial money. The way they save so much money, they claim, is by doing the project in a design, bid, build format.

"We have been successful in this area with design, bid, build...and the reason we have been successful is because we have good contractors," said Rokke.

With design, bid, build, YHR did not recommend hiring construction management, also saving considerable costs.

"We don't think a school is something that would necessarily need construction management," said Lundberg, adding, "We're involved with the construction phase during weekly meetings...and more if necessary, if there's something significant."

Being that they are on site, they oversee the project and cut out that need for construction management, and YHR says it's a method that's been successful before.

JLG, on the other hand, was starkly different, just beginning with the fact that they are an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) company.

Dan Miller, the principal in charge for K-12 work that the firm takes on, was very interactive with the district, asking them some of their biggest fears and hopes for the referendum. He expressed a desire right from the get-go to continue to be this open with the board throughout the project as well as with the community.

"We just gotta get our heads into what can we do with the buildings you have," said Miller, proposing a "long-range facilities master plan" for the district, meaning they would use the referendum money they can get from the taxpayers to pay for the biggest, necessary project and then, if necessary, use long-term facilities maintenance revenue or "OPM, Other People's Money" to finish off any smaller projects.

Miller was all about "doing their homework" and looking into the district's issues, all the possible solutions and then picking the best one for the district. His plan was to present these potential solutions and the decided-on solution at an open forum community meeting where people can come and go as they please and talk with the architects and school board members in small groups rather than a town hall meeting.

JLG said most of the work they have done has been with construction management, unlike YHR, but they were open to doing design, bid, build, if it was the right plan for the district, and they do seem to focus their tactics heavily on the "right plan."

With a pre-referendum fee of $20,000 that could potentially be credited to the project if the referendum passes and a change order percentage of less than one percent, they do a lot of work up front to make sure the rest of the project goes according to plan. Their project fee was also similar to the rest at about 5.5 percent.

The board won't be interviewing any other architects. It is hoping to make a decision and hire an architect soon to get the project rolling as soon as possible, being that the November vote just keeps getting closer each day.