Praise for Carl A. Nelson & Co. on high school renovation
7 months, 4 weeks ago
SHENANDOAH, Iowa (CANCO) — After learning, during a 2019 presentation, about Carl A. Nelson & Company’s approach to construction management agency (CMa) projects, Shenandoah Community School District Superintendent Dr. Kerri Nelson knew she had found the right company to help guide her district’s building plans.
The work that has gone on since has left Nelson even more convinced.
“Every meeting that we had, every promise that was made, they followed through on and kept,” Nelson said in a November 2020 interview. “And when things couldn’t happen the way they anticipated, they were very clear and honest about why things were happening, and what needed to happen to pull things back on track.
“They were a tremendous support. I considered them a partner and an ally in accomplishing a lot of work in a short amount of time.”
Getting to substantial completion of what wound up as a major remodeling of Shenandoah High School was not an easy road, with challenges coming from multiple directions, and not the least being the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nelson, who came to the southwest Iowa community six years ago, said it was evident on her arrival the district’s facilities were in need of improvement. An initial building project that might be described as a moonshot for the district hit all the needs, but carried a price tag of $30 million.
That was more, Nelson said, than the district’s tax base could bear, and cast doubt on the ability of the district to pursue any kind of project.
While attending the Iowa Superintendents Finance & Leadership Consortium annual conference in 2019, Nelson attended a presentation about the benefits of construction management given by Carl A. Nelson & Company (CANCO) Director of Business Development Dan Culp. A conversation after the presentation, and a later visit by project leadership from the firm to Shenandoah, led to the selection of CANCO to provide CMa services to the district.
It turned out to the be right choice.
“I would recommend them to anyone,” Nelson said of CANCO. “I would stand behind their work, because I have seen the quality. I know they follow through with their commitments. And they’ve done well in Shenandoah, and they’ve served our community in an outstanding way.”
Starting from the unrealistic $30 million plan, the Carl A. Nelson & Company team led a process of prioritization to whittle the plan to a more affordable and realistic $20 million proposal that included a new gym, career and technical education center and renovation of the high school. With almost $6 million in sales tax revenue already in the bank, a $14.7 million bond issue to cover the remaining cost went to voters in November 2019.
That plan, however, fell short of the required 60 percent supermajority required in Iowa school bond elections.
What the district was left with was the same set of facility needs but only the revenue from a statewide sales tax to pay for the work. In collaboration with the CANCO project team that included President Tim Seibert, P.E., and Project Manager Cindy Larson, NCARB, a licensed architect, the School Board chose to proceed with a high school renovation project that included $5.11 million in construction cost, based on cost adjustments for 2020.
Seibert’s technical expertise with mechanical systems, and Larson’s overall project leadership, along with a focus on value engineering, Nelson said, were key factors in enabling the district to achieve its goals for the high school.
“Tim was an incredible asset to our team throughout the process,” Nelson said, citing his recommendation to retro-commission the existing building HVAC and update some of the existing equipment rather than taking the more costly route of installing an entirely new mechanical system. That effort saved the district about $500,000 that was able to be used elsewhere on the project. “Tim’s knowledge was instrumental in us reducing the cost of our overall budget.”
Of Larson, Nelson said, “her ability to keep a project moving really allowed us to come in on a project that was on-time and under budget.”
In addition to Larson and Seibert, Nelson also credited the active supervision of CANCO Project Superintendent Kevin Halstrum, and Field Foreman Avery Fader, for keeping the project on track.
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Work was able to get started early when school was called off in March due to the coronavirus outbreak. That extra time provided flexibility to work through supplier and construction challenges posed by the pandemic, Nelson said, and still allow the project to be completed in time for school to begin as-scheduled in late August 2020.
Shenandoah High School: Before & After
With the renovation now complete, Nelson is pleased with the finished product, which met the goals of modernizing the school and giving it a like-new appeal inside and out, while also addressing nagging issues like the HVAC system, ADA accessibility and addressing student safety.
“We’re very pleased with what we were able to obtain with the dollars that were spent,” Nelson said of a project that came in at a square-foot cost of $55.24/SF — significantly less than the cost of building new.
Time, meanwhile, has not yet come to turn the district’s attention back to the other facility needs that would have been addressed in the bond issue proposal. Whenever that time does come, and whatever that future project might look like, however, Nelson is sure of one thing.
“Undoubtedly, we would want C.A. Nelson to be at the table with us as we make some of those decisions and move forward,” she said, “because they have demonstrated time and time again that they are here in the best interest of our district, and our students. And our community has a high level of trust in their work.”