AISD board launches bond-funded construction project

By Toni Garrard Clay; AISD Communications Specialist

The Malakoff News of Malakoff, Texas

Two weeks after voters approved an Athens ISD $59.9 million bond proposal, the wheels began to turn Thursday on a projected two-year project. It is expected ground will be broken around May of the coming year at the four campuses earmarked for construction.

One item on the agenda concerned the method of delivery for the project. Superintendent Blake Stiles recommended the construction manager-agent method. "Having a manager-agent provides more transparency for our local vendors and more opportunities to use, local vendors," explained Stiles.

Several of the board members were pleased with the prospect of being more transparent throughout the bidding process than is possible with the man-ager-at-risk method. "When people bid on something and don't get it, they want to know why they didn't," said Board President Robert Risko.

The benefits noted with the manager-agent delivery method also include more input during the design phase and an expedited construction schedule due to frequent and detailed project reviews. The board unanimously approved Stiles' recommendation.

Trustees also approved an expenditure of $39,500 for Hearn Surveying Associates of Athens to provide the surveying and topographical services at the locations where construction is planned. Those sites are Athens High School; and Bel Air, South and Central elementaries. Chief Financial Officer Randy Jones explained that Hearn was actually the second-lowest bid, coming in at slightly more than a firm out of North Richland Hills.

"We feel there are benefits to doing business locally, including a quicker response time," said Jones. "So we recommend going with Hearn Surveying."

"Kudos to you for recognizing there's a benefit to going with local people with a good reputation even though they're a little higher," said Board Member Alicea Elliott.

"Unless it's a lot more," responded Stiles, "one of our goals is to utilize our local companies as much as we can." The board unanimously approved the expenditure for Hearn Surveying.

Board members were also provided a report by McCreary, Veselka, Bragg & Allen, the firm that collects the delinquent property taxes owed to the school district. According to the report, the percentage of collection on levied taxes is 98.56 percent for tax year 2014, 99.37 percent for tax year 2013, and 99.63 percent for tax year 2012.

"Those are outstanding results," said Jones. "The school district benefits tremendously from the efforts of the Henderson County Appraisal District, Henderson County Tax Assessor/Collector, and McCreary, Veselka, Bragg & Allen."

Trustees also approved a maximum payment of $58,086 to Virtual Communication Specialists of Athens, which represents 15 percent of the total cost for a project to improve Internet connectivity across the district. The remaining $329,156 is being funded through the federalE-Rate program, which financially assists school districts with technology expenditures.

' This will improve connectivity tremendously for our students and staff," said AISD Technology Coordinator Tony Brooks. "We're currently running up to 150 devices off wireless access points designed to handle no more than 100. So we're desperate for more points."

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