Helena schools Superintendent Kent Kultgen is asking trustees to formally declare the closure of C.R. Anderson middle school last week an “unforeseen emergency” after school officials authorized lead testing and abatement work without putting the project to competitive bid.
The item is included on the agenda for the school board work session that takes place this afternoon.
In the description of the agenda item for trustees, Kultgen wrote that the district hired A.L.M. Consulting and its abatement subcontractors immediately upon receipt of initial, worrisome test results on Jan. 13.
“We wanted (the school) abated and cleaned immediately,” Kultgen said Monday.
Kultgen said he doesn’t know yet what the cost for the work will total and couldn’t provide an estimate but said it will likely come in at a level the district would typically put out for bid.
Montana law requires school districts to seek competitive bids for construction work valued at more than $50,000. The law also prohibits the division of contracts to circumvent the bid requirements.
That requirement can be waived in emergency situations, which are defined as “a storm, fire, explosion, community disaster, insurrection, act of God, or other unforeseen destruction or impairment of school district property that affects the health and safety of the trustees, students, or district employees of the education functions of the district.”
He wants trustees to designate the Jan. 14-21 closure an emergency situation in order to suspend the bidding requirement.
Kultgen said school officials spoke to A.L.M. Consulting at the time about the requirement and decided together to act quickly.
“Yes, we had the discussion with them, however, we wanted it to be done,” Kultgen said.
At the time of the closure, Kultgen and others said they relied on the expert advice of the contractors in determining if the initial lead tests warranted closing the school.
School board trustees met on Jan. 14, the day C.R. Anderson was closed, though the contract authorization was not discussed. Kultgen said Monday that the action item couldn’t be added to the agenda without 48 hours notice.
The school board work session begins at 4 p.m. at Central-Linc. Elementary School, 1325 Poplar St.