FPS hires Falls Mechanical for the boiler | Regional News
The Fairfield School Board awarded the tender for the Elemental Boiler to Falls Mechanical Services at the January 17 board meeting.
Falls Mechanical and AT Klemens, both of Great Falls, were the two companies that submitted bids. Falls Mechanical submitted the lowest bid with a base bid of $407,246 and an overall bid of $491,137. The package deal includes alternative one, electrical panel for $3,891 and two alternative, orders for $80,000. AT Klemens’ base bid was $564,000 and their overall bid was $657,300, including $10,200 for the electrical panel and $83,100 for controls.
The board approved Falls Mechanical’s base bid plus the alternate electrical panel bid for a total bid of $411,137.
Before the council accepted the offer, Fairfield Superintendent Dustin Gordon reviewed the finances and the district engineer for that project, Gary Morris, explained the two offers.
Gordon said the district has earmarked $360,000 of federal ESSER (elementary and secondary school emergency assistance) funds for the project. The lowest offer is just over $50,000 higher and does not include an unspecified smaller amount needed for a provident fund.
The district must determine if additional capital is available to award the bid that exceeded the budgeted amount, the board advised. He and District Clerk Denise Grant described several sources where funds would be available from the district’s flexible funds, the multi-district agreement and funds that have been set aside for building maintenance. There’s also the option of running a levy to pay the additional cost if the district determines it’s necessary later, Gordon said, but added he doesn’t think at this point it would be necessary.
Gordon said the district doesn’t have $50,000 in a single pot that can be used, but with a little work it can be done and won’t mean deep cuts in other areas. “We can tighten our belts and make it happen,” he said. “I don’t believe we’ll have that opportunity again to charge so much for this project without having to ask the taxpayers to bear the entire burden.” This project has been a priority for over 15 years and funding nearly all of the over $400,000 project with ESSER funds is in the best interests of the school as well as local taxpayers.
Gordon and Morris said the higher-than-expected bids reflect the cost of supplies needed for the project. Like everything else, they soared, both said. Some materials may drop in price before they are purchased, but there is no guarantee.
Morris noted that the school could change the scope of the project in hopes of reducing the cost, but that would mean rebidding the project and betting it could be made cheaper.
Morris advised council that with the state of the current electrical panel a new one is required and should be included when accepting bids. It was agreed with some work, the current control panel could be modified and used and replaced over time.
Gordon said the district is lucky to have the maintenance team they have that can keep the current boiler operational in the event of a breakdown, because the search for parts is limited or simply doesn’t exist, and they have to improvise.
Board members who spoke agreed that the boiler needed to be replaced as the district was already operating on borrowed time and agreed that using this pool of funds is the best option.
Gordon also reminded council that the special bond for the latest addition and upgrade to the latest building will be paid back this year. If the council chose to ask voters for a special bond in the future to meet necessary repairs and additions to facilities, the aim would be to maintain or be close to what ratepayers are currently paying and try to avoid an increase in taxes.
Under various topics at the meeting, the board members who were present unanimously (minus Michele Gjerde who was not present at the meeting) renewed Superintendent Gordon’s contract for the 2022-23 school year. His salary will not change, as it was negotiated last year to include a second year if the contract was extended. The board presented the motion to extend the contract, followed by an executive session for Gordon’s evaluation.
In the administrative reports, Principal Courtney Bake reviewed end-of-semester activities and events that took place in December and those planned for the future. She noted that the elementary book fair will be held in February and that the Teton County spelling bee is scheduled for February 8 in Choteau. Gordon described meetings he recently attended.
The board reviewed the school retention plan. Gordon and Bake reported that the number of staff and students absent due to illness was not significant, but they saw a slight increase. They did not see the district revert to a mask mandate at this point, but encouraged students to wear a mask if they choose to. He said bus drivers and kitchen staff continued to wear masks. “These are two critical areas for the operation of the school and we need to keep them as safe as possible,” Gordon said.
The administration talked about situations that might arise where they would need to go to the remote school. Gordon said the only scenario where there wouldn’t be many alternatives is if staff numbers dwindle to the point where they can’t hold classes and no replacements are available. The two agreed that it is easier to cover classes in high school than in elementary school when staff are sick. They said they could safely hold a few high school classes in the media center at a time and be covered by a teacher and could move staff during their prep period to cover other classes. These options are not available in primary school.
The administration has sought the board’s advice on canceling sporting events if the district transitions to remote learning. After discussion, the board advised the administration that if the reason for the shift to remote learning was related to understaffing and not illness among students attending sporting events, they would not cancel the event. .
The next board meeting will be February 15 at 7:00 p.m.