It doesn’t have the money yet, but the Bozeman School Board decided Monday to push ahead to hire a general contractor construction manager to jump start construction of an eighth elementary school.

Board trustees heard presentations from four general contractors competing for the job before voting 4 to 3 to choose Langlas & Associates as its first choice, based largely on the firm’s experience building Hyalite Elementary in 2009.

“This was a very tough decision,” School Board Chair Denise Hayman said.

School Superintendent Kirk Miller said he expects it will take just a couple of days for administrators to negotiate a contract with the first choice. If an agreement can’t be reached, the board’s second choice by a 6-0 vote was Dick Anderson Construction, which renovated Bozeman High School.

Also competing for the contract were Martel Construction, which built Chief Joseph Middle School and the $10 million Bobcat football stadium expansion, and was the No. 1 choice of two school trustees; and R&R Taylor Construction, which did not have the same experience as the others in school construction.

Langlas built Hyalite on time and $1.5 million under budget. Trustee Sue MacGrath said the beauty of choosing Langlas is that the firm has recent experience constructing the same basic school and would benefit from any hiccups that occurred last time.

It was a rare split vote for the School Board, which divided along gender lines. The women trustees, Haymany, MacGrath, Wendy Tage and Heide Arneson, voted for Langlas, while the two men trustees, Bruce Grubbs and Ed Churchill, said Martel was their first choice.

The School Board has decided to put the new school on a fast-track so it would open in August 2013 instead of 2014, to avoid an additional year of crowding and disruption for students and teachers. Hiring a general contractor construction manager is also intended to save money by having the contractor work with Prugh & Lenon Architects early in the project.

The school would be built based on an update of the design used for Hyalite Elementary, which opened in 2009 and cost $15 million. The school district’s request for proposals required contractors have the ability to bond a $14 million project.

One of the general contractor’s jobs will be to estimate how much construction will cost. That has to be done by March 26 to get the information on the ballot.

Voters will decide in the May 8 election whether to approve bonds to build the new school. Voters will also decide whether to approve the School Board’s tentative deal to purchase 40 acres north of Durston Road, near Cottonwood Road, for $1 million for the eighth elementary school and a future middle school.

School officials contend the seven elementary schools are full now and next year, when the district expects enrollment to grow by about 120 students, schools will be overcrowded.

One question trustees asked contractors is whether they could still do the job if the bond issue failed and the project were delayed several months.

In other action Monday, the School Board:

  • Voted to join with 70 regional school districts in a cooperative agreement intended to save money on professional training, computer software and hardware, and bulk purchasing. Miller praised the Bozeman School Board members, particularly Trustee Gary Lusin, for spearheading the new idea and winning approval and seed money from the 2011 Legislature.
  • Honored Bozeman High English teacher James Maxwell, in his eighth year as head coach of the Hawkers speech and debate team, for earning the National Forensic League’s second diamond level as coach, based on his students’ winning 30,000 points in speech and debate. The Hawkers finished second this year at the state tournament and qualified 11 students for the national tournament.
  • Applauded Bozeman High students Abbie Aamot and Devin Morrison for being selected, based on taped auditions, as members of the Northwest High School Honors Choir, which will perform in Seattle in March.


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