Community Report

Image of Bond Logo
A Community Report
from the Bond Oversight Committee
By Bryant Morrisson 
Bond Oversight Committee
The Citizen's Bond Oversight Committee (BOC) wants the Edinburg community to know that they are still very involved in the bond program overwhelmingly approved by voters in May 2008 to build new schools.

There are five key crossroads the BOC has successfully navigated since the $112 million in construction bonds were passed in May, 2008. Each of these junctures has been crossed with little delay and minimum difficulties.

The first milestone was selling the bonds above par value. In today's market that would be impossible but ECISD hit the market at just the right time. The result was two-fold: lower payments on the refinancing of the lease-purchase bonds and a surplus on the construction bonds. The administration will have the benefit of determining how to best apply that surplus during the construction process. The end result is saving money for ECISD on both bond transactions.

The next major accomplishment came with the process of hiring Broaddus and Associates as the project management team to lead and control the bond construction projects. The district followed the process of requesting qualifications and a nine-member team parsed all the applications, performed interviews, and then ranked the candidates. The project management team selection committee consisting of three members from the BOC (Co-chairs Dr. Frank Guajardo and Bryant Morrison, and member Norma Guerra), three members from ECISD administration (Superintendent Gilbert Garza, Assistant Superintendent Mario Salinas, and District Architect Robert Estrada), and the three board members who sat on the Facilities Committee (Committee Chair Carmen Gonzalez, member Ciro Treviño, and member Robert Peña). The Board approved negotiations with Broaddus to be the project management team and they quickly set about planning and scheduling for the coming years.

A debate ensued for more than a month to determine what was the best method of contract delivery to use for ECISD. The state allows for several methods, some better than others, and Edinburg had already experienced some bad results in past construction projects for many different reasons. After board workshops, BOC meetings, and conferences with Broaddus and BOC, a method was chosen that seemed to allow for the most transparency and had the best cost controls: Construction-Manager-a- Risk. In general, the contractor that bids on the projects will be held responsible to keeping the costs within the district's budget. This is accomplished by having the general contractor and the architect/engineers work together throughout all stages of planning, designing, estimating, surveying, site preparation, and the all phases of construction including the warranty period after occupancy. With that much communication and agreement it is difficult to explain any increase in costs due to design or construction errors since both were involved in planning it from the outset. Construction-Manager-at-Risk is the chosen method for ECISD with Broaddus in the oversight position.

Next came the selection of architects/engineers for the project. Broaddus, BOC, and ECISD working together divided the project into five groups labeled A-D respectively: four elementary schools, two middle schools, three fine arts classroom/auditoriums, Brewster improvements and expansion, and the renovation of Harwell back into a high school. The process was similar to the committee used to choose the project management team; however, Broaddus was present now with information and guidance. While Broaddus does not have a vote in these issues, their expertise demonstrated time and again that there are earning their fee in organizational structure for this process. Being able to rely on expert, unbiased advice in a $112 million project is priceless and this is what Broaddus has brought to this process. Having the BOC present brings the light of publicity to the process that keeps everybody open and honest. The mix seems to be working fabulously. The ECISD board approved the consensus recommendation to assign each group of project its own architect/engineering firm after interviews, ranking, and discussion.
The last step to complete this comprehensive process to ensure savings, honesty, and efficiency requires the selection of the general contractors. These are the firms that will be responsible for completing the projects timely, within budget, with the quality the Edinburg taxpayers demand. Again, BOC members, administration, and board members joined to create a nine-member committee to interview and rank the general contractors. Having performed this process twice previously, the group had determined the process was better served by adjusting the committee to accommodate three BOC members and one alternate. Additionally, board member Ciro Treviño had been replaced by David Torres on the Facilities Committee. The same process was followed over a two-week period and general contractors were approved by board.

In summary, the BOC has been fastidiously pursuing its promise to the citizens of Edinburg: savings, transparency, and quality.  The analogy used at a recent board meeting makes even more sense here and bears repeating. The BOC is the duck floating on the water seemingly calm and consistent in its movements toward the goal but all the while paddling furiously beneath the surface to keep its promise.

The BOC will to work with the Public Information and KATS-TV departments to disseminate information on the progress of the bond projects. A bond update link is being developed for the district's website and will very shortly be accessible to the public. The link will have approved plans, photographs of construction sites, financial reports, a digital timeline of all projects, and other information for the public.