$250k project received just one bid; work would take place over summer break

by: SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - St. Helens High School, which will likely not get a fresh coat of exterior paint and new glazing on its single-pane windows this summer, according to Marshall Porter, chairman of the school board. The board took no action on the sole bid it received for the painting and reglazing project after board member Ray Biggs argued it would be 'irresponsible' to award the contract without any other options.The board of directors for the St. Helens School District did not take action on a contractor’s bid to paint walls and reglaze windows at St. Helens High School at its last meeting Wednesday, June 11, before the end of the school year, meaning the project will likely be delayed until next summer.

The school district only received one bid on the project, from Kent, Washington-based Long Painting Co., despite six contractors initially expressing interest. Board member Ray Biggs argued vehemently against awarding the contract without multiple bidders, saying it would be “irresponsible.”

“I’m really concerned about the deterioration of all these buildings, so delaying is not something that I strongly suggest and recommend,” said Biggs, who has a background in construction work. “But I think in this situation, if all we got is one bid, that we ought to just back away from it for this year.”

Biggs said the district has had bad experiences in the past with shoddy contractor work and he does not want to see the same thing happen with the $250,000 painting and reglazing contract at St. Helens High.

“I just think this is going to be inherently problematic,” Biggs said.

Board member Jeff Howell made a motion that the board accept the Long bid, but none of the other four board members seconded the motion. Under the rules of orders governing board meetings, the motion therefore died and the board took no action.

The board’s lack of action Wednesday came despite concerns district staff expressed over the school district’s accumulating maintenance needs.

“The one difficulty with not doing it is then the money stays camped out in the capital projects fund,” said Janine Salisbury, the district’s business manager. “This would be the second year we’ve postponed major projects, and things are not getting done.”

Howell and district facilities manager Jared Plahn also pointed to Long’s solid reputation, although both agreed it would be ideal to have more than one bid.

Wayne Mayo, a Scappoose-based contractor who was one of the five who looked into the project but did not ultimately submit a bid, said the district’s timeframe for the work to be completed was too aggressive for him to make a bid on the project this year.

Mayo recommended to the board that it allocate money to replace the old windows instead of having them all reglazed, although he told the Spotlight Thursday he will not enter a bid for the contract himself.

District officials have said the painting and window work cannot be done while classes are in session, meaning the project must be completed over summer break.

Board Chairman Marshall Porter said after the meeting that the board’s decision to punt on the contract likely means work will not take place this summer.

The school board also adopted a $39.8 million budget for the next fiscal year at its Wednesday meeting. The total amount of the budget represents a modest increase from the $38.5 million budget approved last year.

At its next meeting June 25, the board will be discussing the possibility of reopening the Columbia City School, the sixth-grade school that closed in 2012; offering online education; and reviewing Superintendent Mark Davalos’ performance, among other matters.

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