COOS BAY — Now that the BEST Bond has been approved by voters, the Coos Bay School District is planning its next move.
During a facilities planning meeting Thursday evening, district officials, employees and community members brainstormed the construction timeline for the next few years.
The first item of discussion: how to establish a Public Oversight Committee.
“When we put together the BEST Bond Committee, we first had a steering committee come up with names and contact the folks,” said Superintendent Bryan Trendell. “I thought it worked quite well.”
Trendell pointed out that the time commitment for the Oversight Committee would be significant throughout the next year.
“Until we get the plans in place and know what we want each and every classroom to look like, this first year is going to be pretty busy,” he said. “It’s going to be busy trying to make sure we get out and communicate with everyone, get ideas and stakeholder input, and make sure everyone has an opportunity to have a say for what goes into certain buildings.”
The oversight committee would also use the same social media outlets that the BEST Bond Committee used as a way to keep the projects transparent to the public.
“That piece will be important the entire way,” Trendell said.
The Facilities Planning Committee named a group of people to what is essentially the steering committee that Trendell described. This group will come up with a list of names, people who will potentially make up the future Oversight Committee that will serve as watchdogs. These people will look at how much bond money is being spent, where it is going, and will make sure projects are done on time. Not only that, but they will report all of it to the public.
Though the approved bond measure will give the district $59.9 million of property taxes over the next 25 years, the school district has to sell the bonds and complete construction within the next three years.
“We have a time limit,” said school board member and facilities planning committee member James Martin.
The district’s Director of Business Services Candace McGowne explained during the meeting that “we have to certify that we spend at least 85 percent in three years, that’s the only way they sell 100 percent. If not in three years, we have to break it up into two sales and take into consideration the $4 million matching grant from the state because we have to spend 100 percent of that in three years. That’s three years after the bonds are issued.”
Here’s what that means.
Martin told The World that the school district bonds are just like U.S. savings bonds, which are basically a financial instrument sold on the financial market.
“The number one consideration for favorable interest rates is to pledge to spend 85 percent of the money in three years,” he said.
McGowne said during Thursday’s meeting that if the district moved forward with plans that day, they would get money in March or April, “but we’re not ready today.”
“Once the school board sets the resolution, that’s the first step and will probably be done in January, so we may not receive the money until May,” she said.
Martin told The World he anticipates the bonds selling in the spring.
HGE architect Joe Slack, who did the initial concept designs for these projects, broke down what the construction timeline might look like. He and HGE are not hired for the projects right now, since the district still has to go to bid, but answered questions about the projects during Thursdays meeting.
As for the construction timeline, he said that the architectural selection process could take up to three months.
“There’s five project sites,” he said. “There could be six to nine months of design work to get to a point where you’re ready to bid to contractors. Then with the bidding, award and contract phase, that could take another three months.”
The construction period could take anywhere between nine to 18 months.
“That’s contingent on not only doing the work but working on campus when some of those campuses are occupied, which impacts how easily they can get around the site,” Slack said. “If you add all that up, it’s in the realm of three years.”
One of the first pieces to this puzzle is a professional project manager.
This person will account for safety hazards, such as asbestos abatement, all the way to which project site to start on first.
Trendell said he plans on speaking with the project manager at the hospital to help point out where the district should look to fill the position.
“Once we get a project manager, things will really take off,” said the district’s facilities manager Rick Roberts.
Though the project manager will decide where the construction should begin, the Facilities Planning Committee anticipates that the first site will be the Millicoma/Eastside site.
Currently the Pacific School of Dance is leasing out space at the Eastside building.
“We need to make sure our tenants know this is happening,” Martin said. “I don’t know that the district can do anything to help the dance school find a new space, but we certainly will do anything we can.”
The construction plans include tearing down the existing Eastside School and building a new one which will house the 600 students now attending Blossom Gulch Elementary.
The Millicoma Middle School construction is being grouped into the Eastside project since both schools sit on the same property.
Construction plans for Millicoma include rebuilding the entrance.
The next anticipated construction site is at the Harding Building, which poses problems because it houses special programs such as Destinations Academy, Resource Link, the ARK Project, the GED program, and even a day care.
“The programs at Harding have to be relocated to a temporary or permanent location,” Trendell said.
Location ideas were discussed during the meeting, but no decisions were made.
“A lot of questions were posed tonight,” Martin said.
The Facilities Planning Committee named a group to work on the request of proposals that will be sent out to bid. They are expected to have those proposals completed by January.
“I want to thank everyone who was involved in making this happen,” Martin said at the start of the meeting. “The campaign is finally over.”