Wenaha Group, a native-owned business based in Pendleton, was hired to manage construction of the 509-J School District's projects in the Madras area, including a stadium, auditorium and school upgrades.
>Native-owned Pendleton business
Speaking at the 509-J Board of Directors meeting, July 23, Robert Quaempts, a Umatilla tribal member, who co-owns Wenaha Group with Dave Fishel, said they were just wrapping up a school project in Hermiston, and another project in northern Idaho.
"We are very competitive in the tribal and public world," Quaempts said, adding, "We have a record in education. We provide the best value and have strong ties with Central and Eastern Oregon, Washington and Idaho."
He said their firm stresses community involvement. "We like to give opportunities to the community and school district and keep the money as local as we can. We've already begun reaching out to community businesses, mom and pop motels, RV parks, and restaurants, for workers who will come in from out of town," Quaempts said.
Before forming Wenaha Group, Quaempts said he was the public works director for his tribe for 15 years. He also lived and worked in Warm Springs for one year in the 1990s and is familiar with this area.
Superintendent Rick Molitor commented, "Also, a key element in the interview process was that Dave Fishel has a degree in construction management. (Wenaha) really stepped up in the contract amount discussion and it will be a flat fee contract."
The next step will be to hire an architect, and begin the Madras projects, which are projected to be completed by 2014.
Board Chairman Laurie Danzuka told Quaempts, "We're really excited, and glad you're here. This is huge for our district and our student body."
Warm Springs school
A ceremonial groundbreaking was held July 19, for the new Warm Springs K-8 school, at its site on Chukar Road. A separate project manager and architect will be hired for the Warm Springs project, because of the intricacies of the tribal/school district agreement.
Requests for proposals for a construction manager have been put out, and are due back Aug. 9. The selection process will be held from Aug. 13-24, with tribal and 509-J board members included on the screening committee.
Molitor said visits to Portland and Washington, D.C., were planned to continue discussions with Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education representatives for help paying for the new school.
"We stepped up and need the BIA to come to the plate and help fund the school," Molitor said, adding, "I think $6 million would not be unreasonable. That would be one-third of the cost of the new school."