We the bloggers have temporarily come out of retirement with this short post. As everyone knows, tomorrow morning the Board of Education will hold an unprecedented Saturday morning meeting (9 a.m. at the Administration Center) to further discuss, and possibly approve, going to referendum next March to raise funds for a new Hinsdale Middle School.
Dr. White's updated report, in which he recommends the board approve going to referendum, can be accessed at the following link:
An updated power point presentation on the costs of the new building, as well as two new cost options, can be accessed at the following three links:
As you can see the hefty $73 million price tag has been neatly trimmed to a still outrageous amount in both options. Option A will cost $66,451,803. Option B will cost $63,709,009.
We will not get into the details of what has been slashed out of the original $73,000,000. Rather, we will simply point out the obvious. D181 taxpayers are all being taken on a crazy roller coaster ride. The price goes up and down and up and down. Fast and furiously, we are spinning out of control on this ride, and we don't know what the next curve or hill will reveal. There is absolutely no reason for any taxpayer in the communities feeding into D181 to believe for one minute that either of the numbers presented in these options are solid, final numbers.
One month ago, we thought the BOE had selected an architect firm that wasn't the most expensive, but was still going to charge upwards of $45 million for a brand new school that the administration and certain board members marveled would be a crown jewel. Some in the community, and wiser board members (Gray, Burns and Giltner), thought the design was too extravagant and would cause unfair disparity between CHMS and HMS. Rather than deal with the disparity issues, the project plans became even more extravagant and the cost ballooned to the projected $73 million discussed at last Monday's board meeting. Faced with the obvious public dismay and sticker shock caused by the 55% inflation over earlier projections, the administration has scrambled to make it right, but only after four board four board members (Gray, Burns, Giltner and Vorobiev) insisted from the outset of the meeting that this was simply too much money to ask the taxpayers to fund. Board President Garg came around at the end of the meeting to join the four board members, but Clarin and Turek seemed comfortable approving a $73,000,000 referendum questions.
Now the revamped numbers have been released and we are left asking, is this a joke?Does the administration really think that it can slice off $7,000,000 (Option A) or$10,000,000 (Option B) in just three days and expect the BOE to be comfortable that either option is the right path to follow and that the new projections are accurate? At the end of the day, both of these options are still $20,000,000 more than community members were led to believe we would have to pay for a new school. The bait and switch tactic that the administration has pulled on the board and community is unconscionable.
We urge all community members to attend tomorrow's board meeting and let the administration know how you really feel, before the BOE votes on whether or not the time is right -- and more importantly -- the price is right to go to referendum in less than three months. Hopefully, rational minds will prevail at tomorrow morning's meeting and the board will halt the roller coaster ride and get back to the drawing board.
I'm listening to the Saturday morning special meeting. Three facilities committee members spoke out in favor of the board voting to put the referendum question on the ballot. Hardly a surprise since they have committee two years serving on this committee and are vested in a building getting built. I am surprised that none of them expressed sticker shock, but they are entitled to their opinion. Once community member spoke out against the board going to referendum now saying there are still inequities that need to be addressed and more discussions need to take place. Another Hinsdale resident who is on the village finance commission reminded the board how Hinsdale residents expect a full vetting of finances on any issue that goes to referendum and reminded the board about the sales tax increase in Hinsdale that took three cycles to finally pass in order to raise needed street and sewer funding. He said that town hall meetings should be held to fully discuss finances before any referendum happens. He did not take an opinion on what the board should do today, but one can read between the lines...
Finally, thank you to John Czerwiec who asked the board to address the public concern on whether or not HMS is a safe school. As another person commented a couple of days ago, the newly formed Vote Yes For HMS referendum committee has called HMS unsafe on their website (which is seeking public support and donations). Board President Garg asked Dr. White to address the safety issue and he unequivocally announced that the building is safe. Thank you Dr. White for clarifying this for all D181 parents. Hopefully the referendum committee members will promptly delete this misinformation from their website and learn the following lesson: If you want community members to support your committee, give you donations and vote yes for HMS, you must always tell the truth.Dramatically sweeping adjectives that are not accurate will only help the committee members who no doubt are quietly forming an Anti-referendum committee and people on the fence will lose trust in what you are selling.
As a parent in this community, I can appreciate a former board member's comments on the history of the district's building upgrades and referendum challenges, but she is missing a basic point related to trust. In order for me to vote for a new HMS, I have to have trust in the administration and board of education. I trust neither. The board continues to support the ridiculous spending habits of our administration: conferences (including travel for a couple of teachers to NY so they are on board with inclusion in classrooms), expensive surveys (how about the $50,000 adequacy survey) consultants (hello $50,000 Ian Jukes), not to mention undeserved high salaries, ineffective administrators (we know who they are) and raises to boot. This board continues to turn a blind eye to White and his administration and this should raise red flags, especially with a project the size of HMS. Of course, the administration competence, or lack thereof, speaks for itself. Yes, the curriculum remains a major a problem INSIDE all schools. Fix this first before building a new HMS.
It looks like a vote passed to put a $65 mil bond on the March ballot with Giltner and Gray dissenting.
Yes, it is true. We, the bloggers, are working on a commentary that will be posted later this weekend.
I listened to the meeting in its entirety. The general attitude of some of the board member does this board and community a disservice. Just two days ago, these guys were willing to rubber stamp a 73MM bond referendum. Two days later, the budget dropped nearly 10MM dollars. What have they been doing? I realize they are up against a self-imposed time constraint, but they worked on this for two years, in the last 3 weeks the pricing has whipsawed in ways that would make a Chicago politician proud.
In general, I was impressed with Gray's, Vorobiev's, and Giltners comments. Not because they seem to share concerns that I have, rather they asked probing questions as if they read the proposals and gave this some thought. I was glad Gray voted no, but more importantly, I was happy she pointed out the absurdity of the budget moving like it has and the fact that the board members were only being fed documents just before meetings. Why? How can anyone provide oversight like that. Is this by design or is it just ineptitude.
This leads me to the facilities committee, what exactly have they been doing. Do Clarin and Garg truly believe they have been doing a good job. From my vantage point, the proposals A and B, do not materially differ from the proposal given earlier in the week, but millions of dollars in waste was trimmed in a matter of hours. Seriously? The first estimate that was presented to this board should have been vetted with waste and cost in mind. A basic example, placing classrooms on the upper level of the gym, do they have no understanding of how this impacted the cost? A lower level. The impact of the necessary retaining wall construction to dig the foundation. I was angry that the architect didn't point this basic cost issue out, maybe he did. Dream big was the direction so maybe they didn't care.
The entire time it appears the facilities committee loaded this with wants, with little regard to the taxpayer. On top of that, you have Turek and Clarin abdicating their roles in oversight in favor of expediency, like " hey, we worked on this long enough, the teachers and the party circuit are getting antsy." Truly, these two would be fired if they worked for me. One obviously has an alternative agenda and the other is just a bit caddish. Its the taxpayers fault though, they were elected. One was the president?
In my opinion, no matter what happens with this referendum, the actions of several of these board members calls into question their role in any serious endeavor going forward.
Regarding the proposals. Option B with the tight footprint looks to be the best, IMO. The question of the auditorium remains but it can easily be added later. I still do not understand why they want this space, though. On top of that, even if they get it, they have added several music rooms and choir areas. Can't the stage be used for some of this space? How many choir and music rooms does this school need?
I still don't have an idea of actually how many students this building is designed for. Is it now 857? How many students are actually attending the school? We've heard board members state presently it is less than 800 then we have public speakers saying it is 825 right now. What is it. This should be very easy to clear up.
They say all the wrong things when it comes to cost controlling a project. The mindset is all wrong. Every time I hear one of them say things are still not known, I read that as a change order and cost escalation. Will be interesting to see how this referendum goes. May backfire on them completely.
I just finished tried listening to the podcast of this morning's meeting. It isn't posted even though the meeting ended hours ago. In the past the podcast is immediately available. More lack of transparency? Of course! So disappointing in the continuing misbehavior being exhibited by Dr. White.
And of course this will make it impossible for the news reporters who were not present to run a timely story. They should be outraged.
I listened this morning and it was a doozy. It is really disturbing that the podcast is not available yet. Equally disappointing was how I believe the BOE and Dr. White violated the Open Meetings Act when they brought a motion to pay the Cordogan firm 80% of their pre referendum costs to the tune of approximately $120,000 while the rest of the fees continue to be reviewed. Such a motion was not on the posted agenda. Any motion that is to be voted on is supposed to be posted at least 48 hours ahead of the meeting. They did not do this and of all board members, Marty Turek -- who served as president for 2 years -- should have known better than to push this motion on the rest of the board and say that this way a check could be cut to them today. No other board member even considered this violation, nor did Dr. White, who should have. I have already notified the Dr. White of this potential violation and I have been told he is consulting with counsel. It was even suggested that he tried to tell the board about the violation. Really? I didn't hear him do this and if he by chance slipped someone a note, they took no action. If in fact this turns out to be another OMA violation that they will need to correct at the next public meeting, it will be the second one in less than two months. It will also be the latest error or mistake made in a referendum process that should have been more thoroughly vetted before a vote. Most shocking to me was how the magic number $65 million was plucked out of a hat this morning without not a single mention or discussion as to what the impact on the average ($500,000 home value) taxpayer would be. Perhaps the BOE doesn't think that amount is important, but I do and in my opinion it should have been identified and discussed and compared to the earlier numbers previously floated for a lower referendum. I too commend Leslie Gray and Richard Giltner for voting no and explaining their fiscally responsible reasons for doing so.
It is absolutely wrong that the podcast is not available! Shame on White! Of course, he will make some kind of excuse and blame the tech department, but frankly, this is not acceptable, no matter what the reason.
For confirmation of the hypocrisy shown by Dr. White during this morning’s meeting, please read the following article published in the Hinsdale Doings on September 12, 2015:
Here's the relevant quote:
"District 181 initially estimated the cost of building a new school at $65 million; however, estimates from the architects were $47 million to $57 million from Legat Architects and about $50 million from both Cordogan Clark & Associates, and Wight & Company. "I think the ultimate cost will be even lower," White said. "None of the proposals from the three architects are going to be built exactly as proposed. Things will be tweaked, and I'm sure there will be things in their proposals that we won't do, which will reduce costs."
Yet today Dr. White made a point of asserting that $65 million has always been the target $ amount.
It is ironic that Dr. White dared to suggest in his bully memo to the BOE posted on Board Docs for this morning's meeting that the community will lose trust in the district if they don't go to referendum in March. What a joke. If anything the community will lose trust (and probably already has) in administrators who flip flop and have no issue representing to a reporter that the costs will actually be significantly lower. How could Dr. White say in September that the ultimate cost to build HMS would be less than the 3 design concepts because the design would be tweaked and items eliminated driving the cost down and then this morning suggest that $65million was always the known target number? We all deserve an explanation, although at this point, there is no regaining my trust for Dr. White. It is forever lost.
I listened to the majority of our elected board make fools of themselves today because they rushed to a referendum. It's very clear Turek, Clarin and Garg want a new HMS regardless what it costs the taxpayers. They approved of $73 million, why wouldn't they approve a lesser amount?
It's the approval of Vorobiev and Burns I am having the most difficulty accepting. What happened in just 4 days that changed their vote? I wonder what is going on behind closed doors.
I have the utmost respect for Gray and Giltner because they asked the right questions and voted with the taxpayers in mind.
As far as this board is concerned, the majority now have no credibility with the community. They have sold themselves out and it will backfire in their faces come March.
After reading Ms Mayer comments, I went back and listened to the end of the podcast (btw, it is up but it is still listed under the Livestream so go to that large hyperlink ).
Anyway, aside from the legality of the deal, the fact that we just compensated a company for 120000 dollars for three weeks worth of time is pretty strange. The strangest part again is people like Turek and Clarin negotiating this like it is a deal made at a country club. At $ 100 dollars and hour, that is 1200 hours of work. In the last three weeks, they would have had to have 10 guys a week for three weeks straight working on this. At $ 200 an hour, it would be 5 guys. The numbers should not be negotiated like this. In addition, even the mention of compensating them for pre-bid work is astounding. I wonder if Wight, etc were listening. These guys are amateurs and it is our own fault for entrusting them with something so important. Wait until the change orders come in.
Has anyone realized that Donald's Duck has taken the focus away from the district's poor performance on the PARCC?
Why call the new HMS Donald's Duck? One definition of duck per Merriam-Webster is to avoid a duty, question, or responsibility; to avoid by moving quickly. Additionally, you football fans know the meaning of throwing a duck.
Either definition works!
You don't need to understand the details of the various architectural proposals for a completely new Hinsdale Middle School to know that the unexplained gyrations in the cost estimates and last-minute data dumps mean the proposed $65 million referendum will be "Dead on Arrival" in March, 2016.
Our local history indicates that voters will only support a fully-vetted, transparent, fiscally responsible plan put forward by a trusted Board and Administration. It is rather obvious that none of these elements have been satisfied by this Board's last minute rush to judgment to meet the deadline for the March ballot. Not only will the proposed referendum fail miserably at the polls, but voters will now be highly skeptical of any subsequent proposal floated by the current Board whose credibility is effectively shot.
Two proposals for a new HMS were defeated in the late 1990s, and the electoral result will be the same this time around. By floating such a hastily conceived proposal, the current D181 Board has only increased the difficulty of achieving a consensus, long-term solution for HMS that will accepted by the community.
If the electorate turns out like it has in the last couple of elections, this has a decent chance of passing. There are quite a few people in Hinsdale who feel their children are entitled to this new school. They will campaign aggressively for this because as you say, history is not on their side. Couple this with the D86 referendum and taxpayer angst is going to be high. That what makes this entire episode so disheartening. If you want a new school then do a good job. What they did was anything but. The last two presidents have been pretty weak. I believe they already have a committee formed to try and usher this through. I am a bit surprised by a couple of the people on that committee, I thought they were a little more responsible. Surprised they are willing to support this with their credibility. Would have thought they might even demand a little more transparency. This was just poorly done.
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