Tonight's meeting was quite entertaining. The administration responded to my request to indicate the "specific language" from Measure Z they used to justify spending most of the money received from the first round of bond sales on a $12 million stadium. This was after they had ignored their own committee's recommendation and awarded the stadium to a local contractor, Bogh Construction, ranked by their committee as the third best option.
As I suspected, and stated in my earlier posts and in front of the board, these are the two sections of the measure's text the district is using for their justification:
"as outlined in the Beaumont Unified School District Master Facilities Plan (the "Master Plan"), which is incorporated herein."
The District must promote physical education programs to help students stay out of trouble, focus and perform well in school and needs to fund projects necessary for physical education programs that promote student health and academic performance.
After telling us this was their justification, Assistant Superintendent of Business Mrs. Kakish then displayed part of a page from an outdated "Master Plan" and said the stadium had been in the plan for a long time. I guarantee you very few, if any, voters have ever seen this plan.
This is very weak justification for putting projects on hold having to do with safety, security, repairs, and upgrades to all the district's schools; weak justification for delaying projects directly benefiting all students and all schools in favor of a $12 million dollar project that benefits the athletic teams at the high school. The projects are being put on hold for future bond sales that haven't been planned and probably won't be until the stadium is completed. I hope our kids aren't looking to our school district leaders as role models. If they are, they are learning a different set of priorities then I am teaching my kids.
The district appointed a committee to evaluate contractor bids for the BHS Stadium and Educational Support Facilities, the BHS Theater, and the BHS Classroom Expansion Project. The committee recommended the stadium be built by a San Diego firm, Barnhart & Heery Construction. They recommended awarding the other, smaller projects, to Beaumont's own Bogh construction.
The community came out in force tonight to support Bogh construction. It was the largest crowd I've seen for a "regular" board meeting. About 10 speakers voiced their support for Bogh construction and asked the board to ignore their bidding process and grant all the projects to Bogh. Their main concern was to keep all the money in Beaumont. A representative from Barnhart & Heery promised to employ many local businesses.
What we saw tonight proves that the board and administration had already determined what they planned to do a long time ago, even before Measure Z was passed. Jim Walling from the Beaumont Chamber of Commerce almost said as much. He indicated the chamber worked hard to get the measure passed and now Bogh must get all the major projects.
I now see the driving force behind the stadium is the local construction firm, Bogh, and the local sub-contractors and business men who will benefit from the district's projects. I believe the 12 million dollars could stay in the community even if it was spent on the "other" projects. But, since I seem to be alone, and the community leaders believe that a stadium is more important than the remaining projects, then we should be concerned with keeping the money in the community but we also need to make sure we are selecting the best contractor and getting the most for our money.
The district appointed a committee that followed a detailed scoring process and took into consideration a contractor's local experience and local work force. They ranked Barnhart number one on the stadium and the theater project. Barnhart was also ranked number two on the other two projects. I found it interesting the administration's agenda listed Bogh along with Barnhart as the top two contractors on all the projects but in actuality, Bogh was ranked number three on the stadium. I haven't seen the district in the past couple years ever indicate in their agenda a score for a second place bidder. I don't know that I have seen them even list the losing bidders before. I may be wrong.
Barnhart was ranked #1 for the athletic complex and Bogh was ranked #3. We also heard that Barnhart has built stadium projects before. In addition to all the community members speaking on behalf of Bogh, two members of the Bogh family also spoke and no one mentioned any stadium project experience in Bogh's history.
Four of the board members expressed their support for Bogh and indicated they would be making their decisions based on their past experience with Bogh. Mr. Orozco, the only trustee who supported the committee's recommendation, said they should respect the work of the committee and should take into account Barnhart's experience with stadium construction. He stated we should focus on what is best for our school district and our first concern shouldn't be about providing a local stimulus package.
The board confirmed the panel's recommendation and granted the smaller projects to Bogh. Then they let the motion to grant the stadium contract to Barnhart die by not seconding the motion, they couldn't even vote to defeat the motion. Then they passed a motion 4-1 to give the stadium to Bogh as well.
The Barnhart representative responded by stating this was the 2nd time their company had been recommended as the preferred bidder and the board overturned the recommendation in favor of Bogh. Their spokesman said the district is becoming known by contractors as Bogh's district.
I only hope that the district will remember one time they claimed "Our Kids is Our Focus". The kids are what is important here and I hope if the demands of the community's contractors and businesses have caused the board and administration to lose their focus that they regain their focus soon, hopefully before the next round of bond sales.
Next, the board addressed a new Conflict of Interest Policy. Are you kidding me?