MVRHS track planners interview project managers

Owner’s project manager expected to be chosen next week.

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The facilities subcommittee of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) school committee is expected within a week to select an owner’s project manager (OPM) for the first stage of a planned reconstruction of the MVRHS track.

The subcommittee interviewed four finalists for the job on Tuesday afternoon, and plans to agree on a project manager at its Monday, June 25, meeting at 4 pm, then recommend the choice to the full MVRHS committee later that day, subcommittee chairman Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter said on Tuesday.

The committee decided to hire a project manager in order to guide them through the design and engineering phase. The school committee has $30,000 in FY2018 funds set aside to pay for the initial work, and will use FY 2019 funds to carry-fund the project manager post in order to continue in the 2019 fiscal year, which begins on July 1.

Their decision will likely be difficult, given that the finalists, all from Massachusetts, each have extensive experience in engineering, designing, and building athletic facilities, including tracks. As project manager, the firms would not be eligible to serve as general contractor on the project, since the project manager is responsible for overseeing the general contractor’s work.

The initial project manager work-in phase is expected to take four to six months as the school and the project manager develop a set of goals and expectations.

The four finalists were culled from a list of at least six firms identified by MVRHS facilities manager Mike Taus and school district business administrator Amy Tierney. The finalists are Daedalus Projects, Boston; Huntress Associates, Andover; Tom Irwin, Burlington; and JJA Sports, Westford.

While Daedalus has the most experience working on Island projects, including the new Oak Bluffs fire house and unsuccessful plans for a new school in Tisbury, all of the candidates produced impressive résumés. The firms have designed, built, and managed school and municipal track projects in the state and region, using both natural grass and synthetics.

The subcommittee members began the interview process by asking a set of five predetermined questions on how a partnership would work; a different idea occurred to member Robert Lionette who branched off with a question about whether the candidates would prefer doing design and engineering work and track construction rather than the project manager job. Selection of a design and engineering firm will happen as the planning process advances.

The candidates expressed interest in the project manager’s job, but their answers left the door open for an expanded role in the project.

Certainly the lineup of candidates represents the top names in the athletic field-building business, along with Gale Associates, Weymouth, which did some preliminary engineering work last year on the dime of a community group.

All the candidates said they were familiar with community controversies over the use of grass or synthetic turf on athletic fields. Most said they were familiar with the grass/synthetic dispute, and several said that presenting the facts on both options is key to community resolution. One member of the Daedalus team, noting the new Oak Bluffs fire station passed town meeting by only a handful of votes, said Daedalus put a sign with contact names and numbers on the construction site to encourage community interaction.

Community reaction will likely not be missing from the MVRHS track project after a year of furious debate on the topic between pro-grass and pro-synthetic partisans. Currently, the school has a pro-grass policy, the result of ultimately unsuccessful negotiations with the Field Fund, a pro-grass fundraising group.

The MVRHS committee and its facilities subcommittee have been clear that they do not favor either approach, and a decision to change policy would only come after planning is completed.