The Buffalo School Board put off a decision on where to place a second Emerson School of Hospitality yesterday. Despite a recommendation from staff to locate the facility in the C.W. Miller Livery Stable on W. Huron Street (entry image, right) following a Request for Proposals process, board members raised questions and concerns about that process and the highest-ranked proposal.
After a thorough analysis by school administrators on proposals for a new site, the Buffalo Development Corporation/McGuire proposal for the Livery site was recommended unanimously by Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash and management staff. The Board postponed a decision last month and again on Wednesday.
One member appeared to favor a proposal for a new building by Signature Development/Uniland Development for Ellicott Street (entry image, left). From The Buffalo News:
When I look at these two, there’s no comparison,” said board member Hope Jay, noting that the Uniland proposal for a school on Ellicott Street had a more inviting appearance.
Most astounding is one board member raising concerns about the safety of the W. Huron site:
Other board members raised concerns about safety in the downtown area, with Mecozzi saying there are a lot of “nasty” people in that area.
“I’m going to tell you how it is on the streets of Buffalo,” she said, in an exchange with Cash. “There are some nasty people walking around all the time.”
Mecozzi’s comments are a real head-scratcher. The current Emerson School is located on W. Chippewa Street, directly north of the recommended site. Hutch Tech is located two blocks to the west. The Academy of Science is a half block to the south. The School Board meets two blocks away.
Any delay by the Board is concerning. The RFP did not include a Board role in reviewing the bids. Presentations by each of the bidders was not part of the evaluation criteria. Projects were ranked on experience, financials, and how it met or exceeded the requirements of the District.
The RFP sought a “turn-key” 80,000-square-foot facility with 16 general classrooms, eight special-education classrooms, an art room, two resource rooms, two science labs, a library, a computer classroom, a cafeteria, a fitness area, various offices, and 100 parking spaces.
Changing the RFP rules and selecting a proposal that did not score the highest, would be inappropriate and ripe for a lawsuit. The Board would need to scrap the months-long effort and delay the project by a year or more.
District attorneys have advised board members their role was to receive a recommendation from the administration and take an up or down vote on the highest ranked proposal or table it.
The District had hoped to have a second Emerson facility up and running in fall 2018. An initial RFP for a second Emerson School did not result in a project though that was due to a delay by the selected developer. The Board of Education cancelled initial plans for a school in the Trico complex last fall due to a lack of progress by developer Krog Corp. A lawsuit over that cancelation is pending. A second RFP was issued in December and five proposals were received.
Disobeying the rules of the RFP and selecting a proposal that didn’t rank highest, would raise questions behind the integrity of the process and the possibility of politicking going on behind the scenes. Board members appear intent on bungling this.