All posts for the month October, 2016

Tour of the Haunted High School fails to scare

Published October 26, 2016 by justicewg

Terrifying pipes

The school administration made an appropriate choice to run their tours of the facilities in the Halloween season of haunting and creepy buildings. Too bad the scare tactics were so ineffective.

A group of about 25 community members were taken on the tour October 25th, and were shown various shortcomings of the high school. This was part of the Facilities evaluation process, which until last week was being run by Harrison Planning Group.

They showed off a room on the second floor that had suffered a large water damage issue, and was under repair. These roof issues were presented as a big problem, and I don’t know why they seemed to be so challenging. Roof repair is an established business, for the last few hundred years or so. You would think the school could contract with a company that would fix them, then guarantee the results. But the administration seemed to find the whole roof issues to be unsolvable.


Why is this room so nice? New furniture, fresh walls and floor?

Most of the complaints were about issues with the rooms being too cold or too hot. They mentioned a zone system for fixing this issue, but it didn’t seem to be high on the planning lists of the administration.

A lot of the facilities issues seemed to be inconveniences, which the school had worked around for years. Maybe the school has been putting off repairs in the hope of major reconstruction or new buildings being built, it doesn’t make sense to pour money into rooms which may be gone in the future.


A coffee nook in a classroom?

Maybe the school board didn’t want to fix things which will be replaced – but what if the lack of upkeep on the school was intentionally done to help add to the scare factor of the tour? That would seem like a deceptive trick to me. How can we evaluate the difference?

Much ado was made about the elevator, which broke and needed a new part fabricated. The school was without second floor wheelchair access for weeks.


Oops, wandered into the wrong room.

Certainly not a good situation, but new elevators are installed inside the shafts of old elevators all the time. I understand the school board wants us to think the school building is like an elevator that gets old and needs replaced, but the analogy just doesn’t hold for buildings. Roofs repairs are not special parts that need custom built by workers who will be gone and take the skills with them when they retire.


School board breaks with Harrison Planning Group

Published October 18, 2016 by justicewg

Board members Douglass, Palmisciano, Super Culp, Evans, Tres. Collier, Truett, Pres. Brannan did not attend.

The school board set up a short notice special meeting at 8:15 in the morning on October 18th, and announced the immediate end of the relationship with Harrison Planning Group, citing “unprofessional behavior and attacks on board and task force members” (according to member Truett), and claiming that HPG did not want to continue working with the board.

The board picked Harrison Planning Group in January of this year, signing a $67K contract to do facility assessment (with an option for $27K more for further service), produce documentation of facility replacement costs, facilitate meetings with the public to explain those documents, and recommendations for directions the school could take in upgrading the schools. HPG attended the first facility meeting with the public on Aug. 24, and presented the findings on the school facilities.

The board’s explanation for the break with HPG

Board member Jessie Truett, on the facility committee, spend most of the 8:15 AM meeting explaining why the board is ending its relationship with HPG.

Truett said HPG was keeping some documents confidential, and didn’t live up to the “transparency” requested by the board (the word transparency is a favorite of Truett, he used it at least 15 times in the meeting).

This is an odd complaint from the board, were they saying that HPG was keeping some documents secretly, and not releasing them to the board? Because the only group that can release documents is the board, HPG was not expected to release them to the public (consultants release documents to the people who pay them).

Truett said HPG was making specific options for the facility process, and labeling them with dollar numbers. Apparently the board wanted something less specific, and was afraid the cost estimates would be used as hard figures.

The way you get exactly what you want from a consultant is to specify expected documents and the scope of the work to be done. If this doesn’t work as expected, is it a fault of the contractor? Or the board which was supposed to give good project scope instructions, and supervise the work output?

Finally, HPG was hired with the condition that they would not be eligible for any facility or architectural work done in the future at the school, in order to prevent any possibility that HPG might be self-dealing future contracts. This was acceptable to HPG. However, HPG was using sub-contractors who might be eligible for work at the school in the future.

According to Truett, when the board asked Kevin Harrison to not use any contractor who might bid on future work, “he took our request personally, responding in an unprofessional manner, verbally attacked members of the task force and the board of education, and responded that he didn’t want to work with us any more.”

Again, this points to a deficiency in the contract and scope of planning with HPG, if the board didn’t want sub-contracters with eligibility for future work, they should have said so. I’ve been told that the pool of firms which might do this sub-contracting is small, and finding any who would do the work with the stipulation of no future contracts would be nearly impossible.

Truett said that HPG had been paid for the work they had done, and was in possession of all documents that were created by HPG up to this point, and that the board would end the relationship with no financial entanglements.

This is questionable – as the creator of the facility documents that are the basis of the process, HPG was uniquely able to answer questions about how those assessments and projections were created. Any successor that will be facilitating the process from now on will be struggling to catch up. Is HPG expected to pass off the work product for free, and not be paid for any consultation with the new company?

What is HPG’s side of the story?

I don’t expect Kevin Harrison of HPG will do any responding for requests for his side of the story. It doesn’t help to re-litigate a bad ending.

We can guess how this might have gone down from his perspective. He might say he was given poor instructions, and he was simply doing what he has done in all the past work with schools.

Harrison Planning group list 33 years of experience in consulting and facilities construction, and a few of the local schools who have used the company are Miami-Trace Local Schools, Washington Courthouse, New Albany – Plain Local School District, New Albany, Dayton Regional Stem School , and the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC).

If he was a difficult person to work with, I don’t think his resume would be this large. I’m guessing the problem was the board members who pushed for an outcome that was obviously what they wanted from the beginning – a recommendation to tear down and build new schools. A consultant who had integrity would resist this meddling with the process, and when pushed, tell them to shove it.

The facilities process continues

The Facility Task force will be meeting next week, and will be working to find a new firm to continue the Facility process with the community. Too bad you can’t attend and ask them what they think of the HPG mess – Superintendent Culp again said that the Task force is a closed group, and you can’t attend meetings.

So much for transparency

There were 13 community members that attended the morning meeting, much to the shock of the board (most morning meetings have no one but the board). Two of the attendees pointed out the poor action of the board in sneaking this bad news into a special morning session, when the board had a regular meeting at 7PM in the same day. They said the board is hiding its failure with HPG by making the announcement at a meeting that would have no attendees (message to clueless board members, word always gets out in a small town). The board tried to give a lame excuse that the facilities business was not on the regular meeting agenda, but plenty of regular meetings have revised agendas. And they did have time to announce a special morning meeting – they could have tacked it on to the evening, no issues at all.

(Later) Now that I have reviewed the video (posted below), I’m getting more ticked off at the way Truett handled this meeting. His response to the appropriate and not at all insulting questions about the morning meetings was for Truett to start talking about decorum at the board meeting, and how he doesn’t want to get in a discussion questioning if the board is making appropriate choices.

Superintendent Culp, sprouting a week’s worth of beard from a vacation that ended Monday, claimed he was responsible for the morning meeting. How lame can you get.

After the break, the video of the Board meeting.

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Running for a public office in Grandview Heights

Published October 12, 2016 by justicewg

Some Grandview residents have interactions with local public officials, and wonder just how a person ends up an elected council member or board seat holder. A much smaller number actively try to run for office. How does that work in Grandview Heights?

Brandon Lynaugh decided he needed to try for the city council during the fall 2015 election. He didn’t win, but got a valuable lesson is what is needed to run for a public office. I asked him questions about that run.

Making the decision to run

J.W.: How did you come up with the idea of running?

Brandon Lynaugh : There were a lot of factors that led me to run for GH city council.  First and foremost it was a desire to serve a community that my family and I have a deep appreciation for.  Like a lot of folks in Grandview, we originally came because of the school system.  Over the last decade we’ve come to appreciate the community even more and I wanted to do my part to give back to it.

While the desire to serve should be at the core of anyone’s decision to run for local office, I was also driven by an interest to give the community a choice in who represents them.  I’ve lived here a decade and never once had a candidate for local office knocked on my door.  It’s no real surprise as the previous two elections for council were entirely uncontested.  No need to campaign when you don’t have any competition I guess?  That bothered me.

And finally, I thought I had a background and approach that would be an asset to council.  It wasn’t to stroke an ego or to set up some future race for higher office as sometimes is the case with local campaigns.  I recognized that if elected, I was there to represent the interests of the entire community as best I could and I was excited by that challenge.

J.W. Did people contact you to encourage you to run?

B.L.: I probably have talked about it with friends and neighbors for a couple years, but nothing too serious.  It wasn’t until I worked on the last school levy campaign did I start to think I might make a go of it.  But the final decision came after a porch visit by a longtime friend/neighbor.  I’ve told a lot of people that it was a combination of civic pride and a little red wine.

J.W.: Was the paperwork easy? How did the petition to be placed on the ballot go?

B.L.: The process can be a bit tedious.  Depending on whether you intend to raise/spend campaign funds the first thing you need to do is file a designation of treasurer with the Franklin County Board of Elections.  You’ll then need to collect fifty valid signatures from registered voters in Grandview Heights.  I think I collected about one hundred to be safe.  Every year there are stories of candidates that fail to make the ballot because of errors with their petitions.  The Board of Elections does a good job of instructing candidates on the do’s and don’ts, but it was still nerve-racking to turn them in.

Other than getting certified for the ballot, the big paperwork requirements are campaign finance reports and an ethics/financial disclosure form that all candidates and elected officials have to fill out.  The disclosure form is designed to prevent conflicts of interest.  The campaign finance requirements include pre-election and post-election filings of every dollar raised and spent.  Sounds like a hassle, but once you get the hang of it it is fine.

Finding the Guru

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