Board OKs Allen Restoration Plan; Talks Policy for Filling Vacant Board Seats

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education study session (November 2, 2016): Forsythe Middle School, 1655 Newport Rd

Tonight’s study session, beginning at 5:30 PM, focuses on an update on Allen Elementary. The Allen building has been closed since mid-August after a water main broke under the school. Superintendent Jeanice Swift has pledged to not only restore, but to improve the building. The Allen community has been housed at West Middle School in Ypsilanti since the start of the school year.

In addition to the Allen update, the trustees will hear a first briefing on a snow removal contract recommendation. There will be two Board Action Items. As trustee Donna Lasinski is favored to win the 52nd District Michigan House of Representatives seat, the trustees will discuss the process they use to fill vacancies on the board. The second Board Action Item will be to vote on the Allen Elementary Restoration and Enhancement Plan.

*AnnArbivore arrived at the meeting at 5:37PM. Public commentary had already begun by that time.

Present: Vice President Christine Stead, Trustees Patricia Manley, Donna Lasinski, Susan Baskett, and Andy Thomas. Absent: President Deb Mexicotte and Trustee Simone Lightfoot

PUBLIC COMMENTARY

Ruth Ann Church, district parent: speaks on transportation issue. Says it’s a safety issue, getting to and from school. There is a communication vacuum. She feels they are left in the dark. Goals and public metrics for routing issues – making children less safe – no cost savings. She asks: What are metrics? When will they hear? When is too soon to hear?

Suzanne Perkins, school neuropsychologist: concerned about school start times. Put together a change.org petition, over 400 signatures currently. Wants to convince the board to change school start time to a later time. CDC recommends no school should start before 8:30AM. Bad for mental health, physical health. Kids’ circadian rhythm switches when they’re about 10 – go to sleep an hour later, wakes up an hour later, needs an extra hour of sleep. Health issue, safety issue, equity issue. Asking the board to put together a group to work on this issue with scientists.

5:42 PM Clarifications – Lasinski asks if the board members have contact information from the people who speak at public commentary, to which Stead says they do.

Thomas notes that school start times is on a future Performance Committee agenda. He says it would be appropriate for the board to contact Perkins to let her know the meeting is taking place.

PUBLIC COMMENTARY x2

Colleen Seifert, AAPS district resident : here to deliver over 500 signatures from AAPS district residents in support of changing school start times. Asks the board to “pay attention” this time and do something.

Some changes to the agenda, with Stead asking Amy Osinski to add to the agenda another item of discussing process for filling board vacancies.

5:48 PM FIRST BRIEFING ITEM: Snow Removal Contract Recommendation

Swift says they are pleased to continue with small business owners for snow removal who work in zones. Only one fall on district property this past year – a dramatic reduction from years past, says Swift.

Jen Hein, Executive Director Physical Properties, is recommending three year snow removal contracts with a 30 day cancellation clause, according to the following zones: Zones 1, 6: AM Services of Ann Arbor; Zones 2,4, 7, 9: Great Lakes Environmental Services of Whitmore Lake – runs the warehouse and barn where other vendors will come to begin their work. Zones 3, 5, 8, Allen West: Superior Lawn Care & Snow Removal of Ypsilanti.

Hein notes that the district received many bids for the work. Superior Lawn Care & Snow Removal, AM Services, and Great Lakes Environmental Services were the only three companies who correctly calculated the square footage. Several of the companies were eliminated because they failed to fill out the proper paperwork or calculate the correct square footage. So some of the bids appear to be lower, but don’t calculate the correct area.

Baskett asks what “unit push price” means. Hein says it’s based on inches of snow, and based on weather reports from snow. Baskett asks if there is a maximum, to which Hein says no. They don’t know how much snow or ice there will be. Baskett asks how much the district paid for snow removal last year. Hein says she’ll get back to her with that number.

The total minimum unit price per push is $94,054 for the whole district, which is about for four inches. Swift says that she will be thinking of that $94,054 number every time it snows. If it snows eight inches, they will most likely need to do two pushes, which would double the cost. After eight inches, cost is determined by price per inch.

Thomas wants to make sure even shallow snow gets cleared, since it can easily turn to ice. Hein says equipment can get damaged if used with snow less than two inches. At a lower depth, they can melt the snow with salt. Stead says they’ve been much more proactive with salt to reduce accidents. Hein notes that part of the contract stipulations is that AAPS is the primary client of each vendor. The companies are expected to be responsive to the district’s needs.

Baskett asks about Superior being the only “recognized” bidder for the Allen West property. RNA Facilities Management failed to calculate the correct area. Stead adds that the Allen West contract is only for this year.

STUDY SESSION ITEM: Allen Elementary Report

6:11PM Stead says that there is a sense of urgency to keep things moving so Allen families can get back into their building.  August 18 was the day of the water main accident. At that point, the board gave Swift the authority to do whatever it takes to get the Allen community

Swift welcomes Keri Beal, Allen principal, Kit Flynn, assisting with Allen transition, and architects from Mitchell and Mouat.

Swift says they are looking forward to being with Allen community tomorrow night to share the same presentation.

Initial work: 

  • stabilize the situation at Allen
  • rehab the immediate impact of the water throughout the building
  • determine a temporary location for Allen
  • coordinate the move to open school on time in temp location

September and October: 

  • full assessment of the damage done by teams of engineers and other professionals
  • determine how best to repair
  • design a new route for the water pipe – not under the building
  • determine options for enhancements within time and budget restrictions
  • finalize timeline for repairs and restorations.

Decision points: 

  • Repairs of damage to building (Covered by insurance)
  • Redesign of water pipe: $100,000 – insurance company would pay to fix the pipe under the building, but not to move the pipe (General fund)
  • Enhancement package: $800,000 – includes ceiling tile and lighting, new paint, some redesign of office and media center. (General fund)
  • Air conditioning: $1.2M – three level of A/C, with lowest at $1.2M (General Fund)
  • New furniture: $250,000 (2015 Bond)

Advantages: 

  • flood event will end with a “better than ever” restoration
  • order of new furniture will expedite a timely move within tight constraints over spring break
  • A/C would enable summer programming in this important building – very few elem buildings have A/C so there is a need in the district.
  • Decision this evening allows the work to be completed for a timely return to Allen – A/C and furniture requires a three month lead time.

Next Steps

  • Mitchell & Mouat to share report this evening at BOE and to Allen parents tomorrow night
  • Request a BOE decision re: next steps in repair, restoration, and level of enhancement
  • staff to begin working with M&M and Linden to make interior selections
  • plan for completion of the bulk of project by end of March, with some items to be completed over the summer 2017
  • return move to Allen to be completed over Spring Break week
  • propose no classe for students on March 30-31 and April 10-11 to allow for completion of move. Working with MDE to be in compliance with school hours.
  • Resume classes in restored Allen Elementary – April 12, 2017
  • In case of delay, mid-June move will serve as back-up timeline.

6:28 PM Kevin Stansbury, Mitchell and Mouat, walks the trustees through the thorough report.

What happened? Massive pipe rupture on August 18, 2016. Rupture occurred in a place where City of Ann Arbor was called to turn off the six inch water main. Not a “standard condition” for it to be put in the way it is. The lobby where the rupture happened used to be an outside space with a sidewalk with a fire hydrant. The sidewalk and hydrant were removed, and an addition on that space was built. They believe the rupture was the result of a failed fitting installed during the hydrant-removal work required for the circa 1990 addition.

Engineers brought in to figure out where to begin the reconstruction process. Started focusing on how to bring water to the building without using the failed pipe.

Lasinski asks if the “what happened” will be covered by the insurance. The insurance will pay for the repairs, but does the insurance cover the investigative process. David Comsa says that the investigative process should be covered, but the private companies the district brought in is still in contention.

Baskett asks if any of the water main repairs done in the neighborhood contributed to the rupture. Stansbury says a healthy fitting shouldn’t have ruptured, no matter the strain.

Thomas asks if they’ve conclusively ruled out any significant structural problems that they need to worry about. Stansbury says the building is structurally sound. Still not certain if there is a cavity under the structure because of the rupture, but that could be easily remediated. Thomas also wants to know if any other school buildings face possible problems, as well.

How will it be fixed?

Immediately, dry out the building, assess the conditions of the subsoil under the building, scans of the building to determine if footings were structurally solid, if everything was plumb. When it became obvious that it wasn’t only unlucky but faulty, Swift asked Mitchell and Mouat to investigate all the other buildings in the district that were built around the same time as Allen.

Allen is unusual in that there was nearly 70 feet of water main without a water main turnoff. When looking at other schools, found seven other schools that were not standard, but not like Allen. M&M is making a recommendation to move water meters to the foundation wall in order to make sure there is no need to bring a third party in to turn off the water.

Immediate stabilization to keep the building from decay related to it being unoccupied: water for heating, water for drying traps, cleaning toilets, watering plants, air movement in the lower level, boiler piping rupture.

Emergency repairs: reroute water service lead to new water meter location, reduce the size of water service lead, relocate under slab water service lead, rebuild lobby – slab removal, flooring replacement, door replacement, drywall repair.

Improvements: unlike Emergency Repairs, this scope must be documented, bid, and approved.

Short-term improvements

  • building-wide flooring replacement
  • building-wide painting
  • building-wide furniture upgrade
  • Media Center improvements – demo of story steps
  • building-wide interior signage
  • any casework upgrades not involving long-lead items

Long-term improvements

  • building-wide lighting upgrades
  • building-wide ceiling upgrades
  • building-wide A/C:
    • in-kind retrofit – replace all existing HVAC units, in kind, with new versions also providing A/C (each with a local rooftop condenser). Results in greatest quantity of units but the least amount of cost: $1.2M
    • middle ground solution – condensers added: ~$2M
    • “day one” solution – one chiller for the whole building: ~$3M

Thomas asks about the condition of furniture at Allen. Swift says all the furniture that is at Allen West would be deployed and used throughout the district.

Lightfoot (who arrived late to the meeting) asks how close the admin is on selecting what they need. Dawn Linden says they are meeting on Friday to determine the scope of need. Linden says they have narrowed it down to a couple vendor choices – as the district has been piloting new furniture choices.

Lasinski asks if they could move ahead on the repairs once the board votes on the repair. She asks if the relationship with the State and the City is going well. Stansbury says it is.

Thomas wants to know what the day-to-day differences between the A/C choices are. In the version where each classroom gets its own unit, the controls are individual to each classroom. Under Option 1, corridors would be warmer, as they wouldn’t be cooled. In classrooms, possible uneven distribution of temperature throughout the room. Swift clarifies that it would only be any place that doesn’t receive direct ventilation currently.

Baskett would like feedback from school community based on the units they already know. Swift says that the central unit tends to be a bit quieter than the unit inside a classroom.

Stead says that what the board needs to articulate tonight is direction on which general area to move in. It runs from ~ $1-3M, based on which option they want to go with, says Stead.

Lightfoot asks what the ongoing cost would be, based on the choice they go with. Not certain, right now.

Manley says they had this discussion in Planning. She was “pushed back” by the high end cost. She also asked if Allen had any currently air conditioned rooms. Manley would give more direction to find out more about the middle ground options. Baskett says they are all agreeing that it makes sense to do A/C. She questions doing the minimum, wondering what she is giving up if they do the minimum. Swift says the difference in the costs between each of the options is a lot of money.

Baskett says she would rather give the leeway of going to $2M to do it right. She goes on to say that she hates to say it so cavalierly, spending $2M. Swift says the enhancement package is almost $1M, then if they went with the $2M A/C option, it would be closing in on $3M of enhancements for Allen.

Thomas is leaning towards the least expensive option. He’s skeptical about the ability to regain in reduced operating costs to regain what they would be spending in capital costs. Can’t imagine they would save enough to justify the extra cost.

Efficiency isn’t the only parameter that Lightfoot says she’s looking at. She wants to leave room for cost overruns. She also wants to pat themselves on the back, saying they wouldn’t even have this money if they didn’t do such a good job of stewardship on the board.

Stansbury quickly goes over the process discussion, sharing with the trustees who the players of the process will be.

What will it cost? Stansbury says they don’t really care about the emergency repair costs, because if it’s damaged, it’s covered by FMG. Out of pocket costs: any repair upgrades, such as moving the water main.

A/C: anywhere from $1.2M to $3M; Enhancements: flooring, painting, ceiling, lighting, signage: $875,000 (different than Swift’s number by +$75,000). Furniture upgrades: $250,000.

Lasinski says that one of the things they did well when writing the last bond was including specific items. She asks that they be “very rigorous” when determining what could be paid out of the 2015 Bond versus the General Fund.

Thomas says that the A/C seems to be a capital improvement that should be covered by the sinking fund. He asks if that means they can’t afford to take it out. Swift says the sinking fund is inadequate to cover the maintenance of the buildings. She says they regularly see big ticket items of HVAC and roofing. If the board were to direct Swift to put current plan of maintenance on hold to carry some of the cost, they would do that. But that wouldn’t be the recommendation they would make. Thomas clarifies that every penny in the Sinking Fund is needed to keep up with building maintenance.

Thomas is leaning towards $1.2M option for A/C. He would not be opposed to middle ground solution, but he would want to know for that extra $800K, what would they get that would be functionally better.

Stead asks Stansbury if the board gave him direction to look for a middle ground option, is there time given the timeline? He says yes.

Baskett says she approves of the Swift’s proposal, including the $1.2M for A/C, with the priority of getting students back at Allen. Lasinski and Lightfoot agrees. Lightfoot asks that they be frugal with their dollars. Manley can live with the $1.2M, but her preference would be to go to the middle ground option with a $2M cap. Stead says that she would feel as if she wasn’t doing her own due diligence if they didn’t explore the middle ground.

Manley points out that Stansbury never got to the timeline. Timeline: needs to get started on short-term improvements because they need to be bid. They would like to come back in front of the board in December.

Swift thanks trustees for their attention. She also thanks Stansbury and Dick Mitchell, who stepped in to manage all of the professionals. Interior paint, redesigned media center and office, new ceiling – a great vision for Allen Elementary. Swift notes they are 77 days “from the event” and they are getting “Allen Back Home” in 160 days.

Stead asks if the trustees are inclined to move the board action item up to approve the Allen Elementary Restoration and Improvement Plan – that way the Mitchell and Mouat representatives could head home.

Lasinski asks that they make a motion to approve the resolution and to allow for the HVAC improvements with enhancements that could address overall sound, comfort, and efficiencies. Manley adds a friendly amendment: further, the board approves Allen HVAC improvements to follow either the in-kind retrofit and/or the middle ground improvement. Lasinski says that they’ve talked about this and she hopes their hosts have heard their discussions. She likes individual room control and the $1.2M.

Resolution passes unanimously.

STUDY SESSION: Board Processes to Fill Vacancy on Board

8:22PM The trustees are revisiting this policy so they can provide direction to the new board. Lasinski is favored to win the 52nd District Michigan House of Representatives seat. If she wins, there will be a vacancy on the board that needs to be filled.

Board Policy 1150: When a vacancy on the board occurs, the board, in consultation with the Parliamentarian, shall establish a process for soliciting candidates and support materials to fill the vacancy at the first practical regular or special meeting of the board in accord with law.

The process for selecting a new board member shall include the opportunity for public presentation and interview

Election Law requirements:

  • Board must appoint a replacement within 30 days
  • replacement board members remain in office until next regular school board election
  • requirements to serve on the board: candidates must be:
    • citizen of the United States
    • Eighteen years of age or older
    • Resident of AAPS district for 30 days prior to appointment
    • registered to vote in the AAPS district

The new board will develop questions they want to use to select their candidate. Policy is that any new board member would be interviewed under Open Meeting Law. The process for selecting a member to fill a vacancy can be determined by the board.

Past process: 

  • press release to solicit applications
  • applications are submitted to the board office
  • open board meeting held to “interview” all candidates who submit applications to which all applicants interested must attend.
  • required candidates to make a brief public statement/presentation at the interview meeting.
  • selections are made in “rounds” of voting. If no candidate has been selected at this point, a committee develops process to address.
  • Once selected, candidate is immediately sworn in and seated.

Stead asks if they want to change the process or the policy at all.

Thomas says that if the vacancy happens in the month of November, they have the obligation within 30 days to fill the vacancy. Stead says  it depends on the date of vacancy.

Thomas says the policy is sufficient. He thinks it would be appropriate for the board to reaffirm that this is the procedure they have used in the past and that it is the policy they would use moving forward. The important thing, to him, is to see that the procedure and its relation to policy is articulated before the election. He doesn’t want any sense of impropriety, that the board is changing the policy based on who is elected to the board next week.

Manley says her only problem is with the issue of timing. Stead gives the example of if she were to resign tonight, the 30 day clock would start ticking right then. She could also say that she intends to leave in January, and at the point when she leaves,  that’s when the process begins. The process could not begin until the seat is actually vacant.

There is a lot of talk over clarifying the timing. Stead says that if a person is elected and wants to resign on 11/9, then they could and the current board would have 30 days to fill the vacancy. Stead says that the folks who are elected, they are still obligated to serve out their office. Stead clarifies that until they have a resignation, they don’t have to do anything. As soon as they do, they have 30 days.

Baskett asks that the process for filling a vacancy be posted on the district website. Swift says they will put it on the website under the Board of Education tab.

All of the trustees are in agreement of keeping the process and policy the same. Since they are not making any changes to the policy, there will not be a formal vote. Stead wants to reassure the public that the board is doing things in a transparent manner and in the way they have done it in the past.

SUPERINTENDENT REPORT

8:44PM Swift highlights successes and achievements around the district. She mentions Tuesday, November 8 – asks people to get out and vote.

ITEMS FOR AGENDA PLANNING: None

ITEMS FROM THE BOARD: None

8:54PM Meeting is adjourned.


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