Veterans Park Academy for the Arts renovation | News, Sports, Jobs

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After a long discussion about the approval of rankings for architecture, construction management and construction services for a renovation project at the Veterans Park Academy for the Arts, there was a separate vote with four votes in favor and three against.

Board members Gwyn Gittens, Betsy Vaughn and Melisa Giovannelli rejected the motion.

At the beginning of the meeting, Gittens pulled out the three items on the agenda for the renovation project at Lehigh Acres School.

“The governance team agreed at our workshop yesterday to review the necessary updates and changes to our school building processes in the Lee County School District. I understand that there are schedules for building schools. We need to move forward as quickly as possible. However, we need to look at our process now before we spend millions of dollars. We need to examine the potential spending of millions of taxpayer dollars with all parties involved. “ Gittens read during the meeting. Interested and concerned stakeholders reached out to me and asked about this process. Are we possibly overlooking ways to save tax dollars and help all students achieve their highest potential? Don’t we owe the stakeholders a respect for justice, inclusion and responsibility? “

She said she was concerned that a positive vote on the items would cause the district to move too quickly with its current plans to expand Veterans Park. This should be one of the times when they need to stop and listen, include and plan for a better future, she added.

“We need the additional seats, we urgently need the additional seats, especially in the Eastern Zone, but my concern is the process.” She said.

Gittens said her urgency not to vote for the motion is knowing that the Department of Education is awaiting approval.

Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins assured the board on several occasions during the discussion that the staff heard the concern and that the renovation is flexible.

“As I continue to say, we certainly have time to make changes and modifications. The documents she spoke to are written very specifically to be very broad and general. This enables us to work with our community as we plan the renovation of the current Lehigh Acres Middle School. “ he said. “These companies have the opportunity to actually hear and participate in community feedback. We believe and want as employees to have the opportunity to join the board on February 23 and give you an overview of our location, including a schedule. Then you can come back to the board after we went to the community after that meeting for input from the community. Then come back on the board in early April and make a recommendation based on feedback from the community. “

This would allow them to take advantage of the summer to get the process started, Adkins said, adding that they believe they can address the concerns and requirements while staying on time with this particular project while they are Collect and collect community input.

Board member Melisa Giovannelli reiterated Gitten’s concern that the community and parents need to be involved in the process. She said they need to slow down and make sure they shop in Lehigh Acres so that they are proud of their school.

“I want to make sure we’re ready and the community is ready. We spend their money, so we have to do it with their interests. “ Said Giovannelli.

Adkins said the staff had once again guaranteed him flexibility before the meeting.

Gittens said she needed to hear that plans are not set in stone.

“Whatever we need and which is ultimately decided as a community. My interest is that I really believe our students deserve a better facility at LAMBS and I believe we need to address this school’s capacity concerns. “ Adkins said.

Board member Cathleen O’Daniel Morgan, who was in favor of the motion, said they walk down the street, hire an architect and go through the planning process with the community and find out that there are issues with the process. From there they regroup and go back. You never start anything in stone, she said.

“The whole point is to start the process by engaging with the community and having professionals who are able to hear what is being said and also be able to understand the pros and cons of the to articulate the questions raised. “ Morgan said. “If you talk to the community without professionals, what do you have? You have nothing. You didn’t move at all. I firmly believe that by saying this document is flexible, the staff will allow the governance team to look for alternatives to what will happen at Veterans Park. “

The approvals included the architectural services ranking given to ADG Architecture, LLC; StudioPlus, LLC; RG Architects, PA and BSSW Architects, Inc. for the renovation project at the Veterans Park Academy for the Arts.

The Construction Management Services ranking for the Veterans Park Academy for the Arts renovation project was as follows: Gulfpoint Construction Company, Inc .; Chris-Tel Company of Southwest Florida, Inc., dba Chris-Tel Construction OAK / Florida, Inc. dba Owen-Ames-Kimball Company and Kaufman Lynn Construction, Inc.

The ranking for building official services for the Veterans Park Academy for the Arts included NOVA Engineering & Environmental LLC; GFA International, Inc. and NV5, Inc.

Approval at the Tuesday evening meeting authorizes the district to enter the company selection negotiation process.

Executive director of operations, planning and project management, Kathy Ebaugh, said Tuesday night’s vote was the cornerstone of the work.

“It doesn’t preclude what will be done” she said during a Monday meeting.

Voting allows the district to engage with the architectural firm so they can be part of the conversation and hear what is being discussed at the community level.

“We look for answers and look for the architect who understands these options.” Ebaugh added that redevelopment would be more of a challenge when working on an existing campus.

She said they want to get options and deal with the ideas the district is considering. Ebaugh said there will also be a community engagement process to discuss the options the district should discuss with the architect.

Gittens asked if they could take a look at the staff tracking process and data to determine if a new facility was warranted or if something needed to be fixed at an existing school. she would like to “Look at the process and be more inclusive.”

Giovannelli agreed that there must be best practices.

“We need to adhere to these best practices when we decide schools and make these plans.” She said. “We need to involve the community more. If we don’t know what’s going on, how can we get the community involved? “

Similar remarks were made by Vice Chairman Betsy Vaughn.

“It always worries me when I find out that other entities, besides those of us here on the board, are well informed about something that is going on with land use and all of the things that are, so to speak, between the lines. “ She said. “It’s worrying when something is brought to us and the decision has already been made and the money has already been spent.”

Adkins said he would be happy to investigate the process as he honestly believes that more clarification could help the staff.

“I can tell you from my point of view that we feel we have talked about it and have involved the board on many points, but we seem to have this separation.” he said. “Regarding Veterans Park, we still have the opportunity to discuss with the community. We have deadlines and sometimes curve balls are thrown at us and we have to be agile and change. “

Adkins advised the board that he would have no problem running a workshop in order to have a very clear process regarding what the board deems appropriate and satisfactory.

“It is not our intention to exclude you from it” he said.

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