Robert Aho sent this column to the Trib. They chose not to publish it. As
Robert says: " . . . The DNT was not interested in publishing this in
column form, nor have I seen any reporting on the conflict of interest and fee
issue, although I gave them that information.. ."
The Reader Weekly published it today.
is no doubt that the existing buildings owned by the
maintenance issues that need attention. I am a strong advocate for fixing
these buildings, many of which are historic treasures. I have also
reviewed what needs
to be done with these buildings, and the list is long. The facilities
manager for the
school district certainly has his work cut out for him. Tragically,
maintaining what we have is not on the table for discussion with the
casual conversation this summer, with guests from out of town, I was asked to
slightly reducing the size of the school district
infrastructure--and spending a half billion
dollars to do it.
This, of course, was met with thunderous laughter. They all asked me
who was selling us
this bag of loose nuts? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how
ludicrous this is.
told them that at the heart of this Red Plan is a company that mainly
temperature controls for buildings—more laughter. They are not planners, nor
are they architects
or other design professionals. What they are is a Fortune 100
company that is
brokering a deal that greatly favors themselves.
This would not
happen if the
simply directly hired
architects from the
start. Architects recommend, per their licensing requirements, the
best value for
their clients. It is the architect’s professional duty to make honest
their clients, as an advocate for their construction and design
the case of the Red Plan, Johnson Controls, not the school district, hired the
part of their own package deal. This means that it is the duty of the
architects to make
recommendations to Johnson Controls, and Johnson Controls has
the right to veto
any of these suggestions before the school district hears about them.
The school district
should have known about this basic flaw in this type of project
the first couple of school projects on the Red Plan, Johnson Controls wound up
subcontracts to install products they manufactured. Some of these systems
that will be
replaced were relatively new. Much from
, and the companies it owns,
wound up in
construction, although this was not made well known to the public. There
was even at least
one instance in the specifications, the access controls, or various
where there were no alternate manufacturers or installers allowed.
This is a huge
conflict of interest! It is certainly unethical. In their position of authority,
is easy for
to require their own
products and installation. The school district should
called this into question.
sort of manipulation of the project could net the project manager,
, an additional
$30 million or more
to install and provide their own products, based roughly on what we
know so far about
the project. This will also secure on-going system maintenance
-- another very lucrative
element of the Red Plan for them.
On top of this,
over $55 million in project fees will be collected by
—an 18.8% gross
return on their
basic estimate of the project cost, or 88 people working full time at $100
per hour for 4
years! This is a very lucrative amount of compensation and hard to justify.
comparison, with schools, architects typically charge 6.2% of the construction
for larger projects
over $50 million in size, this according to nationally published data.
Was the school
district completely unaware that the fee
proposed is simply
were initially told by Superintendent Keith Dixon that
will collect only 2% of
construction. Then there was discussion of it being 12%. Now we learn that it is
actually over 18%,
not including service contracts and construction. Is there more?
Drip, drip, we keep
hearing one drop after another in expensive bad news.
are being pillaged.
on earth does the
allow this sort of
to being the program
manager and prohibit them
from bidding on the
equipment they would be manufacturing and installing? We need to
be outraged by
the school district should have done was to hire one of the big local
to work directly for the
school district. Then the school district should
have hired an
architect or two in-house for additional project management. This could
have led to better
overall results at a fraction of the cost. It would have, undoubtedly, led
to a long range
plan that is actually cost-effective in our stagnant economy.
Red Plan makes no sense at all.