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Bremerton School District preempts levy vote, moves on STEM academy plans
A few weeks before the public vote on the levy to pay for it, the Bremerton School District moved forward on its plans to build an addition to the West Hills STEM Academy.
Last week the Bremerton School Board voted to award the STEM Academy design contract to Rice Fergus Miller of Bremerton. Rice Fergus Miller was recommended from three finalists for the contract by a panel, which included district superintendent Flip Herndon, director of finance Wayne Lindberg, two school board members and Charles Doyle, a West Hills parent.
Lindberg said the decision was made by the panel, which also considered national firms, but he said the final decision was made on the merits of the local firm.
“We are very comfortable with the decision that was made,” he said.
Lindberg said the fate of the project still rested on what the voters in Bremerton decide during levy vote to be held on Aug. 7, during the state primary elections. If voters approve the levy, it would give the district $7.6 million in money for projects such as replacing or upgrading the district’s central kitchen, for $500,000, and adding classroom space to the academy.
If the levy does fail the academy expansion project would halt. Regardless, the district had set money aside for the plans for possible future funding for the academy project, Lindberg said.
“If the levy doesn’t pass, what we will do is get the conceptual and the designs and just hang on to it until we decide what are next step is,” he said.
Steve Rice, of Rice Fergus Miller, said he was pleased to have the contract valued at about $500,000. Though the firm does not specialize in elementary school design, the project mirrored design passions of the firm, he said
“When I saw this advertised I thought there is so much transferrable knowledge here,” he said. “Our office is a living STEM project and when something like this comes up that has a particular niche and we feel we have something to offer, we are all over it.”
Larry Keeton, director of Community Development for Kitsap County, said it was not uncommon for plans to be drawn in preparation for the possibility of a future project. Keeton said it takes time for the county to review such plans and preparation is often recommended.
“They are wiser to get project design and have it ready to submit if funding becomes available later,” he said.
The price of the project will depend upon final plans, but Lindberg said it is currently estimated that the STEM addition would cost about $2.5 million and the architect usually receives 15 percent to 20 percent of the money.
Flip Herndon, Superintendent for the Bremerton School District said he looked forward to working with the firm and felt the firm shared the district’s vision for the project.
“I think they are going to do a great job,” he said.