Local firms a big part of projects, Cape Girardeau school officials say

Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Construction of building improvements is underway Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011 at Alma Schrader Elementary School which is part of the $40 million school bond issue that voters approved in November. (Fred Lynch)

There's been a lot of building on the Cape Girardeau School District's schools improvement project -- thanks to taxpayer approval of a $40 million bond issue last April.

Less than a year later, construction crews have replaced worn roofs at Alma Schrader and Clippard elementary schools, and work is well underway on some $6 million in more upgrades to Schrader, Clippard and Jefferson Elementary School.

The big construction boom -- with a $10 million new Franklin Elementary School, classroom additions at Central High School and its new auditorium, among others -- is coming this summer.

Part of the heavy lifting, some district officials say, is communicating to community members that local contractors are and will continue to be a big part of the upgrades.

"We need to figure out some way to notify the community that the work is going to local contractors," school board member Tony Smee said Tuesday at a board meeting in which members approved bids for the high school's proposed $2.9 million events stadium. Two of the three bids went to local contractors, all the lowest bidders.

Smee said there has been some confusion about how many local construction crews have picked up district bids in the competitive process, a process that has raised questions and the occasional complaint from some area contractors in recent months.

The Southeast Missourian contacted a half a dozen contractors Tuesday afternoon. Some said they were either concerned or had heard concerns about the bidding, particularly the roofing projects; only one would go on record.

"I think everything is going fine," said Bill Heisserer, president of Sides Construction Co. in Jackson. Sides won the general works bid for the stadium, with a $776,000 bid. The contractor also got the general construction bid for the Jefferson project, with a $501,343 project price.

One area contractor said local bidders have been left out of the loop on roofing work.

Neil Glass, the district's director of administrative services, acknowledges the roofing contractors picked for the projects have not been local firms.

"We're looking for a certain system, and some of our contractors are just not capable of putting on that system," Glass said of the higher efficiency, thermal plastic roofing systems with longer warranties.

"We expect a little bit of experience to come along with the projects we're looking at, and if a contractor doesn't have that experience with this type of roof, that's a problem for us," Glass said. "We don't want to be the first roof put on."

Glass said the majority of the projects are being completed by local contractors. He told the board he will try to put together a comprehensive list, breaking down contractors by location. Glass did not specify when the list would be completed or if it would include subcontractors.

"We have a responsibility to communicate that, and I'm going to try to find a way to do that so that people know where their dollars are being spent," he said. "We have an obligation to the taxpayer and to the local economy, and we need to keep that in healthy balance."

mkittle@semissourian.com

388-3627

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