Let us recall.....First the D181 BOE and Administration selected an architect whose "HMS design contest" proposal cost $46 million. Then less than 2 weeks before the BOE had to decide whether to go to referendum or not, the price tag skyrocketed to $73 million. Then at the ninth hour, the architect brought forward three additional proposals with price tags of $55, $60 and $65 million. The BOE majority (with two sane and rational board members justifiably saying NO to the $65 million plan), voted to go to referendum for $65.
And guess what the community said? NO WAY! The Referendum FAILED! And, it wasn't even a close vote!
So now, as the BOE is trying to decide when and if and at what price tag to try again, the architect has come forward with a new proposal -- one in which it will agree not to be compensated for any more design changes - which per their letter, will only be MINOR --made prior to any future referendum being approved AND in which the firm will agree to lower its Architectural Fees on the whole project in order to get the price tag down to under $60 million. Really? Well, we are not buying it!
Check out the letter they sent to "Don" 45 days ago, on March 24, 2016.(That's right -- "Don" has been sitting on this letter for over one month, not publishing it for all the community to read, and to our knowledge, it wasn't published or discussed at the April 11 BOE meeting! The letter is now posted on Board Docs for the Monday, May 9 BOE meeting and can be accessed at: March 24, 2016 letter.
As we read the architect's letter, we were, to be frank, beyond disappointed in Cordogan Clark. Why? Let's take a look. The following will quote portions of the letter in blue and then give our reaction in red.
The letter states in relevant part:
"As you know Cordogan Clark revised the design seven times since the competition to continue to find cost savings and we were intimately engaged in every organized activity to present the facts and information related to the HMS referendum and were ready and willing to do more and even offered to go door to door to provide information, and get the message dispersed."
Reaction: How comical that they claim they revised the design 7 times to find cost savings! How ironic that they neglect to acknowledge that their original $46 million "winning design" was revised UPWARD by nearly $30 million. The fact that they ignore this apparent "teeny weeny fact" in their letter speaks VOLUMES. In our opinion, they just don't get it! Furthermore, their claim that they were "intimately engaged in every organized activity to present the facts and information related to the HMS referendum" must mean they worked hand in hand with the Vote Yes Committee and Director of Communications. Obviously, they had ZERO influence, since they were unable to convince anyone to conduct the door to door canvassing that they reference. Not once did the community get any flyers from the Vote Yes community group. It just got flyers from Ms. McGuiggan. Why not? Why didn't the architect work to create flyers for the VOTE YES group that were mailed to the community or distributed door to door? It seems that this firm is quick to claim that they would have and could have done more, but the reality is that what they SHOULD have done, they did NOT do. So why trust them now? We sure don't!
"As a gesture of our commitment to CCSD 181 and this project, we offer to forgo additional compensation for the efforts related to design adjustments required to bring the project price lower than the $65 million for the next referendum phase. It is our opinion that the current design, with some reasonably minor adjustments, as agreed to by CCSD 181, could bring the project cost down to under $60 million."
Reaction: Read carefully what they said. They essentially want to keep the current design with "minor adjustments". No mention of what those minor adjustments might be, no mention how they determined that these unnamed adjustments could reduce the price tag by $5 million. Are they planning to eliminate the auditorium? The running track? What are they talking about? And are they really suggesting that reducing the price tag by a mere $5 million will be all it takes to convince more than 50% of the community to vote yes? In our opinion, this statement is meaningless and cannot be trusted. It is clear as a bell that the community is not just going to accept MINOR changes to the design. Hopefully, the online and phone surveys will show that the community expects not just MAJOR design changes but also a much greater reduction in the overall cost of the project. The refusal by the architect to even consider this possibility in their letter leads us to conclude that they will never work to achieve the community's real goals and desires for a new or renovated HMS.
"We believe that the design, which was highly favored by the Administration, HMS staff and the Facilities Committee has inherent efficiencies and can be further refined to realize these savings."
Reaction: Are they joking? They claim their own design has ''inherent efficiencies?" And that as a result of these "efficiencies" their plan can be "refined" to "realize savings?" What does that even mean and why should we trust their assessment of their own project that was riddled with cost mistakes from Day One? Simply making this claim does nothing to instill greater confidence in the many community members who didn't fall for the first round of bait and switch and are way too intelligent to accept at face value anything Cordogan Clark now says. Sorry folks, but once you stop laughing at this ludicrous suggestion, you should vent the anger you should be feeling towards this architecture firm and DEMAND THAT THE BOE FIRE CORDOGAN CLARK.
"Furthermore, we also offer to fund the cost of an independent cost estimating company which could validate the cost of the revised HMS design that we jointly settle upon and further reduce the negative perceptions related to the previous cost estimate."
Reaction: So now, not only do they want to reduce the price tag with MINOR adjustments, and expect us to believe their representation that their design is inherently efficient, which they believe will reduce the price tag by $5 million, they also want to pay OUT OF THEIR OWN POCKETS the cost of an independent cost estimating company to validate the revised future HMS design cost? Wow -- THEY SOUND DESPERATE! Perhaps they realize that their contract might actually be in jeopardy, but in our opinion, its' too late for them to regain the community's trust! But wait, the icing on the cake is next.....
"Additionally, we are willing to reduce our total fee percentage by a quarter of a percent to 6.4% from 6.65% to further illustrate our commitment that we are the right partner."
Reaction: To top off their offer to tweak the design and lower the costs to the D181 taxpayers, the architects also offer to CUT THEIR FEES! Yippee! Hooray! SAY WHAT?????? As we recall, there were concerns raised by board members BEFORE the contract with this architect was approved about the fee percentage they were asking for. Yet, at no time did this firm offer to lower their fees below 6.65%. It is unbelievable that in a last ditch attempt to convince "Don" and the BOE to stick with them as the HMS architect, they are willing to cut their fees now. What D181 taxpayers had a right to expect last December was that the district would hire an architect that was willing to make a profit, but realize that it had to come in at it's low point from the start, if it wanted the community to trust it and consider such a high price tag. The fact that the firm is willing to cut it's fees now only means that they had built in quite a cushion because you can bet your bottom dollar that they will still be making a lot of money if D181 accepts all the things this letter offers.
So we should all be asking, is this really their bottom line? Should we believe ANYTHING they say or offer? Well, it certainly looks like "Don" has bought into their proposal -- hook, line and sinker! His report to the BOE for Monday's HMS discussion states:
"I have confidence in the firm's ability to design a school that our community can support, and appreciate their continued partnership." (http://www.boarddocs.com/il/hccsdil/Board.nsf/files/A9NRFE5F1C7A/$file/BOE%20Report%20-%20HMS%20Facilties%20Update%2016-05-09.pdf)
Well, if after all the bait and switch tactics and excuse making and last ditch offers to cut the price-tag with only "minor" design changes, Dr. White really has confidence in a continued partnership with THIS architect firm then here is our final reaction:
NO ONE should have confidence in Dr. White either! In our opinion, especially after receiving this letter, his recommendation to the BOE should have been to CUT THE LINE with Cordogan Clark and hire a new architecture firm. The fact that he didn't come to this conclusion may require some tough decisions by the BOE, not just to go against his recommendation and fire this firm without Dr. White's approval, but also, to conclude that HIS contract should NOT be renewed when it comes up for renewal in the next 12 months.