District will implement pre-screening process for bids before competitive process starts

SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - Construction for two new school buildings in the St. Helens School District are in the early stages of planning and preparation. Construction of a new middle school and alternative high school building through a school bond were approved in November. While construction for two new St. Helens school buildings is months away, the district is already lining up contractors for the project.

The St. Helens School Board approved two policy resolutions during a meeting Wednesday, June 28, marking the first steps toward construction of the new middle school and alternative high school campus.

One policy provides the district flexibility and a measure of control over who can submit bids for construction of two new bond-funded district buildings. Jessica Pickett, the St. Helens School District business manager, explained the policy allows the district to screen applicants before project bidding begins through a pre-qualification process. Construction companies that want to work on the two major projects for the middle school and Columbia County Education Campus will need to submit a report outlining qualifications and experiences.

The school board will then review and narrow the applicant pool down to five providers per building. Selected providers will then be able to submit competitive bids to the district when it comes time to determine which company is awarded the construction contract.

During a meeting in late June, an audience member, who told the board he works for a construction company that has been in the school-building industry for decades, said he was supportive of the pre-screening idea because it would allow for local control over the projects.

The second adopted policy outlines the district's preferred fixtures, like door hinges and water fountains, to be installed in the new buildings. The policy does not dictate who the supplier would be for the materials.

Early in the planning process, Marlene Gillis from Soderstrom Architects, the district's design contractor, said the CCEC building was designed in such a way that local companies and builders would specifically have the opportunity to work on the project.

Groundbreaking on the new CCEC building is slated for mid-November, and groundbreaking for the St. Helens Middle School building is scheduled for early February, Superintendent Scot Stockwell said.

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