School board approves parking lot bid

Published 8:06 pm Wednesday, February 20, 2019

After a bid to reconstruct parking lots for three Albert Lea school district facilities came in slightly higher than expected, the school board is looking to curb some expenses associated with the improvements.

On Tuesday night, the Albert Lea Area Schools board approved the almost $1.34 million project, which includes work on parking lots at Sibley Elementary School and Southwest Middle School, as well as Brookside Education Center.

The district received a lone bid for the project from Ulland Brothers Inc., which has an Albert Lea location.

Email newsletter signup

According to a bid summary provided by Mankato-based engineering and planning firm Bolton and Menk, improvements at both sites include:

Removing existing curb and gutters and bituminous and concrete sidewalks

Furnishing and installing new aggregate base for pavement tolerancing

Adjusting and constructing miscellaneous storm sewers

Constructing new concrete curb and gutters, bituminous pavement, concrete sidewalk and driveway aprons

Adding pavement markings

Providing temporary erosion control and permanent turf restoration

Deputy Superintendent Lori Volz said the bid came in “a little bit higher than the estimate,” but Director of Facilities and Transportation Steve Anderson was already working with the engineer on adjustments and change orders to reduce costs.

Volz said the bid was a little over $100,000 more than the district expected and budgeted for. However, she said she expects changes to bring the project within budget will not be difficult. According to the deputy superintendent, the completed parking lots’ construction should be of a comparable standard to the district’s other parking lots. Anderson’s specifications on parking lot change orders would merely “simplify” the project.

School board member Dave Klatt asked whether the low number of bids was caused by the district placing restrictions on bid criteria.

“No, we’re not being restrictive at all,” Anderson said.

Instead, he attributed the low bid number to the locality of the Ulland Brothers. According to Anderson, out-of-town contractors know they will have to pay to travel, and, upon arriving, will need to buy mix to complete the project from Ullan Brothers Inc.

“We are kind of stuck,” Anderson said. “… I mean, it’s good that they’re a local company … but we are kind of stuck with these guys.”

Though the board approved the contract at its presented price, Volz told the board that change orders can still lower the cost of the project after the fact. Money for the parking lot improvements will come from long-term facilities maintenance funding.

“We’re just very happy we can move ahead with the project,” she said. “It’s very much needed, and of course we want to stay on budget, and so the change orders allow us to do that.”

In other action:

The board approved its fund balance policy with no changes. The policy asks the school board to strive for a 14 percent fund balance, which Volz said helps the district with receiving favorable bond ratings in addition to helping with potential temporary cash flow hiccups.

The board also approved the district’s amended 2018-19 budget. Because of the fall enrollment trend and funding formulas in place, Volz said the budget is “basically a balanced budget,” with revenues slightly exceeding expenses.

“It’s actually a very favorable budget,” she said.

Ellen Kehr, organization lead for the Blue Zones project, addressed the board during the public forum to encourage board members to vocalize support to the city for raising the age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21. The city has not made a decision and will have a public hearing March 25. Kehr cited teen smoking rates in the county and country, which have risen.

“The tobacco industry is very clear about what they want the future to look like and the path they’re going to take to get there,” Kehr said. “I believe that we also need to be very clear about what we want the future to look like and what we are willing to do to get there.”

Halverson Elementary School Interventionist Dara Gjersvik said the annual science fair had a record number of participants at 143 children entered. She also said Halverson’s burger bingo night, despite a reschedule due to weather, had a good parent turnout.

A-Best Sew & Vac was recognized for providing 10 sewing machines for use in a sewing class at the Adult Learning Center.

A property tax abatement was approved for new construction at 2313 W. Ninth St.

Albert Lea Area Schools Superintendent Mike Funk said the governor’s education budget, released Tuesday afternoon, looked promising.

“It looks as good as I’ve seen for education in a long time,” Funk said — though he noted the House and Senate still need to agree.

The proposed budget included a total 5 percent increase in the funding formula enacted over two fiscal years, 2020 and 2021, and maintaining funding for special education. The budget also proposed increasing the school safety levy from $9 to $54 per student by 2021. Funk said he would continue to update the board as the legislative session continues.

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

email author More by Sarah