McComb provides board response for questions about Middletown Building Construction Consultant

Mahomet resident Mark Webb addressed the Mahomet-Seymour School Board Monday, hoping to find answers about the Mahomet-Seymour School Board’s “informal discussions” regarding the potential hire of Rick Johnston as a building construction consultant for the addition and renovation of the Middletown Prairie Elementary building.

The Mahomet Daily asked McComb to confirm or deny the rumor that the board is considering keeping Rick Johnston on for an additional year past his contract in May.

In May McComb replied, ““The Board of Education has no plans to retain Rick Johnston in any administrative capacity, There have been informal discussions regarding potential consulting opportunities relating to building construction. We are not making any announcements or further comments at this time.”

Webb has asked the board for specifics regarding these informal discussions at the May and June board meetings.

The Mahomet Daily followed up with the Mahomet-Seymour School Board in June. All seven board members were asked:

1) At what point did the Mahomet-Seymour Board of Education decide they needed a building construction consultant for the renovation of and addition to Middletown Prairie Elementary?

2) Why did the Board decide it was necessary to have a building construction consultant for the renovation and addition to Middletown Prairie?

3) Does the Board plan to bid out the building construction consultant position to find the best and most qualified candidate?

4) What qualifications will the Board look for in a building construction consultant?

5) What will the responsibilities of the consultant be?

6) Is it a typical practice among school districts to hire a building construction consultant while building or renovating? Have you done research on how other districts handle this situation? If so, what did you find? Is it typical for districts to keep a superintendent on as a building consultant?

7) Has there been discussion of how much the consultant will be paid?  What is the typical contract price? Does the board have comparisons for what other schools have done in similar situations?

8) If building plans have been approved, why does the district need a building consultant moving forward?

9) What is the board’s role in overseeing the construction of the building?

10) Has it been discussed that Rick Johnston will be the building construction consultant? If so, how is Johnston qualified for this role?

11) Do you have reason to believe that the incoming superintendent that you hired is incapable of handling a building project and any issues that may arise?  Under the supervision of Superintendent Johnston, the current Middletown Prairie was built without a building construction consultant. Johnston has also overseen the renovation of several areas in other district buildings under his tenure. Are there differences between the qualifications of Dr. Hall and Johnston, where Johnston would be able to oversee construction and school management whereas Hall would only be able to handle school management (regardless of who the building construction consultant might be)?

12)Under the guidance of former superintendents, the district has required the superintendent to oversee school operations while also managing renovation and building projects. If the board believed a building construction consultant for the renovation of and addition to Middletown Prairie was necessary and because the board has operated with construction under the supervision of Johnston, why did the board not renew or extend Johnston’s Superintendent contract to save the district money? This new model requires the district to pay a Superintendent salary plus a building construction consultant fee.

13) Hiring a building construction consultant is an approach the district has not taken on in the construction or renovations of other buildings. What did the board learn during the process of building Middletown Prairie that would make it move towards hiring a building consultant for this project? Is this something the board foresees as a common practice in the future?

14) Why have the discussion and plans for a building construction consultant been kept from the public?

15) Is the board concerned about the appearance of impropriety that the behind the scenes discussions have caused in the community?

16) Typically, the construction company has a project manager that oversees the construction, is liable for the construction and works as a liaison between the two parties. Will Broeren Russo also have a bonded project manager on their end or will the district’s building construction consultant replace that project manager? Or will both consultants/managers be part of the project? Also, in the event there are issues with the building after construction, who will be the responsible party liable for the building’s structure? Will the building construction consultant be bonded and insured for the liabilities?

McComb was the only one to respond on behalf of the Mahomet-Seymour School Board.

“Thank you for sharing these questions with the Board of Education. I am responding on behalf of the board.”

“There have been no formal discussions regarding this topic.  Your comprehensive list of questions are valid and many of those key points would be addressed if the Board sees the potential need for oversight on the project moving forward.   Any response to those questions would simply be my personal opinion on the topic.  But, again there has been no formal discussions regarding this issue to this point.    If and when the Board sees that need to discuss those options, it would be in an open meeting with the agenda posted in advance of that meeting as usual,” he wrote.

Johnston will retire as Superintendent from the Mahomet-Seymour School District on June 30.

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