Implementing a series of school site property renovations and improvements as necessary and large as the scope of the Plumas County Measure B projects takes vision, patience and careful planning.
With input from the public, Plumas Unified School District staff and administrators, and the Governing Board of Trustees, are patient partners in the Measure B process, meeting often to examine and reexamine costs, goals and critical needs.
It’s the kind of undertaking that raises a lot of questions in the community, too.
Is all $50 million available now?
“Some of our parents have the understanding that since the bond measure passed, we have all $50 million up front, to budget and spend now,” Trustee Traci Holt, clerk of the board, said at the March 14 school board meeting. “Actually, we don’t.”
Holt and fellow Trustees Joleen Cline, Dave Keller, Dwight Pierson and Board President Leslie Edlund are often approached by community members for impromptu checkups on the Measure B projects.
“There are rules around this whole process (of dedicating funds to critical repair and school-upgrade projects),” Holt added. “We have to follow a process and we’re in a much better position than we were previously. We do have a plan.”
The school district will be able to draw down bond funds in increments over a 10-year period.
Therefore, planning which projects to do and in what order is a thoughtful part of the PUSD process to get work going in a timely fashion — especially on things like roofing, heating, electrical and flooring repairs or essential upgrades for safety and disability accessibility.
Will funds be divided evenly?
With so many different needs at each of the sites within the four communities where PUSD has schools — Chester, Indian Valley, Portola and Quincy — it’s a natural thing to wonder if the Measure B funds will be divided evenly among the communities.
The short answer, based upon need and urgency, is no, they won’t.
Each school site has been extensively evaluated for repair needs and essential improvements or necessary updating.
Over the decade of the Measure B allotments, funds will be spent fairly and in consideration of the areas of greatest need. For example, Portola Junior Senior High School has a much newer roof at its facility than other aging school sites do, so trustees have no plans to replace that school roof.
What do architect fees cover?
Questions sometimes also arise about the architect fees the district has to pay. What services do these fees cover?
According to PUSD Superintendent Terry Oestreich, designs for all California schools, including repair projects, must be approved by the Department of State Architects, the DSA. So, PUSD hired architectural firms to design, submit and administer DSA-approved plans and specs for each Measure B project.
The district now has one firm providing these services, PBK Architectural and Engineering design that has specialized in education, healthcare, sports and corporate projects for over 35 years.
Can’t PUSD just bid work out?
Some community members have wondered why the district cannot simply bid out projects and start building or making repairs.
Oestreich clarified that DSA regulates all school projects, but some smaller and specialized projects are exempt from this process.
Design processes to get ready for bidding can take months, given the “intense codes and regulations governed by DSA, dependent upon the size of the project,” she said, explaining PUSD can bid without DSA approval, but cannot contract until DSA approval is received.
“This can be frustrating, but it is necessary and the law,” Oestreich noted.
Guidelines for fees and costs
Given the scope of the work being undertaken on PUSD sites and properties, trustees and the PUSD staff have been asked about the percentage of the Measure B budget that has to go toward architect fees.
Superintendent Oestreich explained, “Generally, architect fees are around 11 percent and this is a state standard for DSA design. This fee is based on construction costs (or hard costs) and is part of the soft costs inherent with DSA processes for California schools.”
Soft costs include things like permits and other expenses that are subject to change.
“Many of these schools were built in the 1950s and ‘60s and show their age,” Oestreich commented. “We have a great opportunity to modernize these facilities and take that very seriously.”