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Beline Obeid

September 26, 2013
Seven requests for quotes for a pre-technology bond planning consultant were reviewed at Monday's meeting of the Technology Steering Committee of the Grosse Pointe Public School System Board of Education, with the committee agreeing to consider a bid from the joint group of Ehresman Associates, Wright & Hunter and Peter Basso Associates.

Administration is expected to meet with consultants from the group today to solidify details and discuss expectations, such as the development and analysis of a detailed architectural plan.

In prior steering committee and board meetings, the architectural plan — or lack thereof — was an area of concern and one of the main reasons for delaying the technology bond from November to February.

"We believe this group will give us the architectural plan that will allow us, post bond passing, to be able to align the architectural plan that gets designed in the pre-bond to be able to move forward," said Tom Harwood, district superintendent.

Harwood said the joint group was among the lowest bids, with its pre-bond work valued at $22,400.

Another of its main draws is, as a joint group, the three consulting firms also encompass expertise in all project areas. Ehresman Associates is a local architecture firm, Wright & Hunter a technology consulting, design and project management firm, and Peter Basso Associates an engineering firm.

Other firms' bids required outsourcing.

"I'm more comfortable with knowing exactly who's on board here ahead of time," said Judy Gafa, committee member and board treasurer.

"Making sure that the team they're putting together has that comprehensive set of skills that we need, I think is pretty important," said Lois Valente, steering committee member and board secretary. "I think this company is worth taking a look at. On the surface, I think they have everything that we might be looking for."

Even so, some concerns were still voiced during the meeting. Commitee chair and board trustee Tom Jakubiec raised concerns about project management.

Project management will be shared between the consultants and district administration. But, Jakubiec asked, to what extent will district administration be involved and how will it ensure the consultants are held to and meet their levels of involvement and obligations?

"How do we know their level of involvement, and how do they stay with the involvement, especially during the critical assessment phase, which is what we have to do very timely?" he said.

"Number one, you ask them," said Chris Fenton, deputy superintendent of business affairs. "And number two, you check with their prior jobs and make sure they were the ones on the job that they said."

Should administration commit to Ehresman Associates, Wright & Hunter and Peter Basso Associates following today's meeting, the group will have about four-and-a-half weeks to complete its critical assessment, analysis and develop an architectural plan and revised bond amount, if revision is necessary.

"At some point, I think we have to trust the administration's judgment to move to the next step," Valente said. "There are safeguards in place to stop a process if we don't think it's working out well.

"Every week we stall this process takes a week out of the supplier's hand to execute a very, very difficult job...I would rather us move on to the next step and take a hard look at their recommendations."

Harwood said he expects to meet with the board in November to discuss the recommendations and plan and eventually approve bond language for the February ballot, reserving December and January for marketing the bond and raising public awareness.

Other bids received were Metro Technology Services, Convergent Technology, Integrated Design Solutions, a joint group of Barton Malow and Plante Moran, SHW Group and Communication by Design.

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