Proposition P Oversight Committee members discuss how to fulfill their charge

Thirteenth in a series

By MIKE ANTHONY

Members of the Mehlville School District’s Proposition P Oversight Committee discussed in August 2001 how to fulfill their charge of delivering advice and recommendations to the Board of Education regarding the nearly $68.4 million districtwide building improvement program.

Proposition P was a nearly $68.4 million bond issue funded by a 49-cent tax-rate increase when approved by voters in November 2000. However, a final budget revision approved in December raises the Proposition P budget to $89,137,440 — a roughly 30.3-percent increase — about $20.7 million more than the nearly $68.4 million building improvement program en-visioned in 2000.

The 15th installment of the Proposition P chronology, based on Mehlville documentation and published accounts in the Call, resumes with the nearly two-hour Aug. 7, 2001, Oversight Committee meeting. At that meeting, members focused on the committee’s role and responsibilities, reaching a consensus on how to help ensure the school district keeps faith with residents who voted to approve the districtwide building improvement program.

Oversight Committee Chairman Chuck VanGronigen said the ultimate responsibility for Proposition P lies with Board of Education members.

Noting that each project that will be performed under Proposition P will have its own timeline, VanGronigen discussed what he termed “flashpoints for accountability” — reviewing a summary of bid packages before bids are sought, reviewing bid recommendations and reviewing change orders and budgets.

The chairman elaborated, “I think there are some flashpoints where we provide accountability for doing our job, for monitoring to make sure what was intended is really delivered … When we’re ready to send out bid packages, this should compare to Proposition P, in my mind. What we’re asking contractors to build for us should be related to what it is that Proposition P promised the voters and should meet the building’s needs.

“When the bid packages come back and we’re about to let contracts, in my estimation, if these contracts do what this bid package said to do, then we’re in good shape because we were involved in the bid package to make sure that that did what Proposition P had in mind. And as we go through in the construction, we’re not involved with supervising construction like we said, but we are involved with major changes like change orders and progress reports to make sure nothing has changed since we let the contracts, bid the packages and set out to do that. That was the concept, that’s the concept on a macro level of what we want to do,” he said.

Superintendent John Cary was out of town and could not attend the committee meeting. Asked how he views the panel’s role, he said, “I think the overall goal is for them to evaluate that the projects are actually doing what we said they would do. I think that they’ve got a very important role because obviously there’s going to have to be changes along the way.

“When you plan a project the way we did, a massive project the way we did, obviously everything isn’t going to be exactly in budget, exactly on time and most of the projects, the scope of the projects were not well defined because the only way you can well define those projects would have been to go through all this planning process of which we didn’t have the money to do until Prop P passed.

“So what some people have in their minds is what the project should be,” Cary added. “It may not turn out that way just because of budget reasons or other reasons. So those are decisions that are going to have to be made along the way …”

The chronology will continue in a future issue.