Forming the Bond Oversight Committee
One of the most important items on the Lake Oswego School Board meeting agenda this Tuesday was not an action item, a school district administrator told The Review.
It was an information-only item (no vote just yet) about the Bond Accountability Committee, said Randy Miller, the Lake Oswego School District's executive director of project management. The plans is that if the district's $187 million school bond is approved May 16, the committee will be convened to provide oversight of the implementation of bond projects and regularly report on the projects to the superintendent and the School Board.
"It's an advisory body, not a formal decision-making body," Miller said to the School Board on Tuesday. "You are the decision makers."
The committee will be a core group of up to seven professionals holding jobs in construction-related fields. The district already has begun looking for interested professionals to apply for the committee and will issue a public invitation to people who are architects, engineers, contractors and project managers. Committee members must be unlikely to pursue work under the bond program but have some experience with school building projects, Miller said.
School Board member Bob Barman said the Bond Oversight Committee is crucial. School Board member Bob Barman said the Bond Oversight Committee is crucial. The school district experienced a cost overrun when it implemented the bond to build Lake Oswego High School and renovate Lakeridge High.
(The district experienced a 50 percent cost overrun "relative to the portion of the original 2001 bond budget allocated to renovate Lakeridge High," said Stuart Ketzler, LOSD's executive director of finance. The LOHS project was less than 10 percent over budget.)
And Barman said this committee is an integral part of the district's plan to ensure that nothing like that happens again. This bond has several major projects such as $61.4 million in maintenance at nine schools, the replacement of Lakeridge Junior High for $82.3 million technology as well as safety and security upgrades for $16.2 million, the replacement of the swimming pool for $7 million and much more. He wants the committee to closely watch the projects on the bond.
"We need to make sure that these seven people understand that: You are the community's eyes," he said.
Barman said that the proposal is for the committee to meet at least once every three months, and he said that's not enough to ensure that's enough to keep things in check.
Miller said district staff can schedule more meetings, as needed.
Barman also said he wants to ensure that the committee holds the professionals working on the bond projects accountable and should step in if necessary.
Miller said the committee is not going to interfere with the work of the professionals on the project, but they will advise them and offer them direction.
School Board member Liz Hartman agreed and said that the function of the committee is to cast a light on the process.
"They're there to ask the hard questions," Hartman said.
The group will communicate key information on the bond to the board, public groups and stake holders. It will also provide advice to the board in several areas, including: following the district's practices of achieving lower costs while also maintaining building quality; implementation of appropriate ways to address seismic issues; adherence to the Americans with Disabilities Act; communication of key details to the bond to the board, organizations, stakeholders and public groups.
Members will have staggered terms of two, three or four years, so the group never empties out all at once.
The committee will receive quarterly reports from the district for each year the bond proceeds are being spent "to verify general compliance with the purposes set forth in the capital improvement program as approved by voters," a staff report states.
What the committee won't do is receive any compensation, and it won't include a district employee. The district will issue a public invitation to professionals, and the superintendent will make recommendations for the six members and the chair of the committee. The School Board will approve the committee's membership.
School Board Chair Sarah Howell wanted to know if the document outlining the committee's duties and make-up required that members live in Lake Oswego. And School Board member John Wallin said that the preference would be to include people who live or work in Lake Oswego. The document doesn't say it explicitly, but board members decided that since they'll be approving the committee, they can choose members based on what they want.
The board will decide on the committee at a later date.
School Board member John Wendland said the committee is an excellent idea, but he does not wish to castigate past board members for not having such a committee. Other board members agreed that back in the late 90s and 2000s, there was no dedicated staff member such as Miller to oversee the bond process and shepherd in ideas like this committee.
"I'm not defending previous boards," Wendland said. "We just had a perfect storm of bad advice."