The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 6, 2009

Joplin school board OKs stage ramps

By Melissa Dunson

Joplin’s new middle schools will be more accessible to people with disabilities, but the change comes with a cost.

The Joplin R-8 Board of Education approved the change orders for North and East middle schools during a special meeting at 7:30 a.m. Friday. The changes will add ramps to the front of the auditorium’s stages for easier access to the stages by people with disabilities.

The original plans called for the ramps to be behind the stage, but board member Jeff Flowers said that would not be acceptable, especially if the school honors someone with a disability. Under the original plan, that person would have to walk around the building, go through a classroom and come from behind the curtain to come on stage.

Anne Sharp, president of the board, and board member Mike Landis said the original ramp location was not an intentional slight to those with disabilities.

“I don’t think we knew what we were looking at,” Sharp said, referring to when the original building plans were reviewed by the board in the fall of 2007.

The district’s architects for all the middle school projects, Patterson Latimer Jones Brannon Denham, Inc., said they had never before designed a school building with a wheelchair-accessible ramp attached to the front of the auditorium stage.

The architects already have made the change to the stage plan for South Middle School, making a change order for that school unnecessary.

The contractor, Crossland Construction, Columbus, Kan., submitted a bid of $36,274 to construct the ramps. The bid for East Middle School was about 60 percent higher than for North Middle School.

Architect Kyle Denham said Crossland justified the high bid for East by saying the project is so far along that this change order is very inconvenient. For the inconvenience, Crossland charged the district the normal 10 percent additional fee for all change orders plus a $5,000 inconvenience fee. Denham said he had never heard of a similar inconvenience fee and said the 10 percent additional change order fee is supposed to cover that inconvenience.

Crossland did not return a telephone call to The Joplin Globe on Friday afternoon.

About the fee, Denham said, “There’s no justification for it.”

Denham said he could not recommend the board approve Crossland’s bid for the project because of the extra fee.

Landis made a motion to accept the bid, but subtract the extra fee, for a total bid of $16,594. The board unanimously approved the motion. The architects will present that bid to Crossland. If the company does not accept the change, the board discussed bidding the project out separately to another contractor.

Superintendent C.J. Huff said the board scheduled Friday’s meeting because the bids for the projects were received immediately before the board’s regular meeting on Tuesday. The bids have a Monday deadline to approve or deny.

During the meeting, the board also approved about $30,000 in cost-saving change orders; approved a $75,000 project to replace windows at Eastmorland and McKinley elementary schools this fiscal year, and purchase a telephone system for East Middle School for $10,600.