School board takes first steps to address PCMS building problems

Jordan Meier
Morning Sun

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Situated on North Broadway, Pittsburg Community Middle School has long been an iconic structure of the community. At over a hundred years old, the building stands as a symbol of the history and also the future of Pittsburg.  

Sadly, due to the age of the building, significant work is needed to ensure it can last another hundred years. Much of the west end of the building, the side that faces Broadway, is currently unused by students as the classrooms are not currently functional for modern education.   

The Pittsburg Community Schools Board of Education has long been wanting to invest and upgrade the building, but lacking funds, more pressing projects have taken precedence. However, recently the board has taken a first crucial step to tackle the middle school: they’ve hired an architecture firm.  

“We’ve been after this for 40 years,” Board President Dr. Micky Painter said. “It's time to get this building fixed up.” 

At their May 24 meeting, the Board of Education unanimously, 7-0, approved the hiring of Corner Greer and Associates, which the district has previously worked with, as the firm to take on the project after narrowing down the search to two firms.  

“I can tell you with either one of the two we really couldn’t go wrong they had strengths in different areas and I think we could form a really good relationship with either one,” Superintendent Richard Proffitt said. “When it comes down to it the recommendation, I’m going to give you, since we really can’t go wrong with either one, comes down to a relationship that we have with one that we’ve worked with already and that’s Corner Greer.” 

However, at the following meeting on Monday night of this week, Board Vice President Ed McKechnie, who voted in favor of Corner Greer and spoke in support of hiring them for the project, expressed his anger at the hiring of the firm, saying he felt “backed into a corner.”  

“Previous boards have been backed into a position because they have not maintained control of this,” McKechnie said, “and I have no intention of turning over leadership of this to anyone.” 

Following McKechnie's statements, there appeared to be some confusion at the Monday meeting between board members as to what the vote at the last meeting meant and what financial obligations the district now has to Corner Greer.  

Five of the seven board members believed that when they voted on May 24, they were voting to hire the firm for the duration of the project. Two did not see it that way, instead of seeing the vote as the approval to see conceptional designs the firm had with no financial obligation.  

“There is doubt whether this is the right architectural firm and we’ve agreed to go along with this to see if they can demonstrate if they have the boldness necessary to move forward with this project, which they have yet to demonstrate,” McKechnie said, who attended the meeting via Zoom. “I'm glad I’m in Washington because I am absolutely furious right now.” 

Following the conversation, Superintendent Richard Proffitt emphasized that any financial obligation to the firm only comes into play if a bond referendum is passed; however also noting that if for whatever reason the board elects to dismiss the firm partway through the project — meaning after the bond is passed and construction plans begin — the district would have to pay Corner Greer for their services.  

“If we don’t have a successful bond referendum, we’re really not out anything,” Proffitt said. “They’re kind of putting things at risk themselves to try to help us and that’s really their incentive to help us be successful in a bond referendum.”  

Despite the confusion, all seven board members ended up in support of moving forward with Corner Greer. The board also approved looking to hire a Construction Management at Risk (CMaR) company for the project, which will help with hiring subcontractors and will be on the hook if any of them fall through.  

“You can look at them as a general contractor,” Proffitt said. “They help protect us.”  

Corner Greer has yet to propose a conceptual design for the updates to the building, but most likely will have some ideas to present at the next board meeting.  

Proffitt emphasized that the firm was waiting on a full evaluation of the building and its problems and that they want to create their designs based on what the board and the community want to see before fully creating a design.  

“They’re going to come in with a conceptual design, but that conceptual design is really going to be based upon a partnership between the community and this board as to what we really want to get in there,” Proffitt said. “Which also should reflect educationally what we are trying to do.”  

The project budget as of right now, according to Proffitt, is $15 million and will be funded and completed if citizens pass a bond referendum that the board is currently working to get on the ballot either for the November 2021 election or a special election at a later date.  

A bond referendum refers to the idea of financing large-scale projects through the selling of bonds to investors with an agreement to pay the investors back in a certain time frame and with a certain amount of interest.  

This is not the first time the USD 250 board has had a bond referendum to fund a middle school renovation. The last bond issue for the district was passed in 2017 which funded a new entrance at the high school, new classrooms at some of the elementary schools and a new gym, locker rooms and weight room at the middle school. The bond issue gave the district $31 million for the various projects.  

However, in the case of this potential bond referendum, Proffitt said that if passed the district could be looking at historically low-interest rates, or even no interest rates if current legislation working through Congress is passed.  

“We’re still trying to get in on historically low interest rates,” he said.  

Proffitt emphasizes that this project is very much in its infancy, but that the board has a clear outline of its next steps.  

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Situated on North Broadway, Pittsburg Community Middle School has long been an iconic structure of the community. At over a hundred years old, the building stands as a symbol of the history and also the future of Pittsburg.  

Sadly, due to the age of the building, significant work is needed to ensure it can last another hundred years. Much of the west end of the building, the side that faces Broadway, is currently unused by students as the classrooms are not currently functional for modern education.   

The Pittsburg Community Schools Board of Education has long been wanting to invest and upgrade the building, but lacking funds, more pressing projects have taken precedence. However, recently the board has taken a first crucial step to tackling the middle school: they’ve hired an architecture firm.  

“We’ve been after this for 40 years,” Board President Dr. Micky Painter said. “It's time to get this building fixed up.” 

At their May 24 meeting, the Board of Education unanimously, 7-0, approved the hiring of Corner Greer and Associates, which the district has previously worked with, as the firm to take on the project after narrowing down the search to two firms.  

“I can tell you with either one of the two we really couldn’t go wrong they had strengths in different areas and I think we could form a really good relationship with either one,” Superintendent Richard Proffitt said. “When it comes down to it the recommendation, I’m going to give you, since we really can’t go wrong with either one, comes down to a relationship that we have with one that we’ve worked with already and that’s Corner Greer.” 

However, at the following meeting on Monday night of this week, Board Vice President Ed McKechnie, who voted in favor of Corner Greer and spoke in support of hiring them for the project, expressed his anger at the hiring of the firm, saying he felt “backed into a corner.”  

“Previous boards have been backed into a position because they have not maintained control of this,” McKechnie said, “and I have no intention of turning over leadership of this to anyone.” 

Following McKechnie's statements, there appeared to be some confusion at the Monday meeting between board members as to what the vote at the last meeting meant and what financial obligations the district now has to Corner Greer.  

Five of the seven board members believed that when they voted on May 24, they were voting to hire the firm for the duration of the project. Two did not see it that way, instead of seeing the vote as the approval to see conceptional designs the firm had with no financial obligation.  

“There is doubt whether this is the right architectural firm and we’ve agreed to go along with this to see if they can demonstrate if they have the boldness necessary to move forward with this project, which they have yet to demonstrate,” McKechnie said, who attended the meeting via Zoom. “I'm glad I’m in Washington because I am absolutely furious right now.” 

Following the conversation, Superintendent Richard Proffitt emphasized that any financial obligation to the firm only comes into play if a bond referendum is passed; however also noting that if for whatever reason the board elects to dismiss the firm partway through the project — meaning after the bond is passed and construction plans begin — the district would have to pay Corner Greer for their services.  

“If we don’t have a successful bond referendum, we’re really not out anything,” Proffitt said. “They’re kind of putting things at risk themselves to try to help us and that’s really their incentive to help us be successful in a bond referendum.”  

Despite the confusion, all seven board members ended up in support of moving forward with Corner Greer. The board also approved looking to hire a Construction Management at Risk (CMaR) company for the project, which will help with hiring subcontractors and will be on the hook if any of them fall through.  

“You can look at them as a general contractor,” Proffitt said. “They help protect us.”  

Corner Greer has yet to propose a conceptual design for the updates to the building, but most likely will have some ideas to present at the next board meeting.  

Proffitt emphasized that the firm was waiting on a full evaluation of the building and its problems and that they want to create their designs based on what the board and the community want to see before fully creating a design.  

“They’re going to come in with a conceptual design, but that conceptual design is really going to be based upon a partnership between the community and this board as to what we really want to get in there,” Proffitt said. “Which also should reflect educationally what we are trying to do.”  

The project budget as of right now, according to Proffitt, is $15 million and will be funded and completed if citizens pass a bond referendum that the board is currently working to get on the ballot either for the November 2021 election or a special election at a later date.  

A bond referendum refers to the idea of financing large-scale projects through the selling of bonds to investors with an agreement to pay the investors back in a certain time frame and with a certain amount of interest.  

This is not the first time the USD 250 board has had a bond referendum to fund a middle school renovation. The last bond issue for the district was passed in 2017 which funded a new entrance at the high school, new classrooms at some of the elementary schools and a new gym, locker rooms and weight room at the middle school. The bond issue gave the district $31 million for the various projects.  

However, in the case of this potential bond referendum, Proffitt said that if passed the district could be looking at historically low interest rates, or even no interest rates if current legislation working through Congress is passed.  

“We’re still trying to get in on historically low interest rates,” he said.  

Proffitt emphasizes that this project is very much in its infancy, but that the board has a clear outline of its next steps.  

Jordan Meier is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. She can be reached at jmeier@morningsun.net.