Local officials oppose new plan

By Jessica Kalin

Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s plan to outsource school construction projects has met some opposition.

Blagojevich’s plan would remove local control and send it to a more centralized location in Springfield or Chicago. This would mean public schools, colleges and universities would have to use state engineers and architects instead of local construction companies, architects and engineers.

State Rep. Robert Pritchard said he definitely is against the bill.

“This would take jobs away from local businesses,” Pritchard said. “It is not approved in legislature, so there is a chance for reason. That is what we are lobbying for.”

NIU currently uses a qualification-based selection process which picks contractors and architecture based on qualifications. Barsema Hall was built using independent contractors, and the new Alumni and Visitors Center will be built the same way.

“[NIU] has established a rapport with architects and engineers,” said James Bryant, NIU director of Architectural and Engineering Services.

Southern Illinois University in Carbondale wouldn’t want an architect from Chicago, he said.

The new bill, if passed, is going to take the selection of contractors away from local decision makers, Bryant said.

Blagojevich’s bill will affect only state-funded projects.

NIU has both state-funded and university-funded projects. Bryant said there are numerous sources of funding for campus construction. However, the bill is not cost effective, he said.

“Someone in Springfield could be picking companies for [NIU],” Bryant said. “The company could be in St. Louis and with the drive time, it is not cost effective.”

Bryant has worked with qualification-based selection for 12 years.

“[The new bill] could be worse,” he said. “There is room for abuse in all systems. It is part of the eternal wave of things.”

Local K-12 school officials agree that school construction should be done by local businesses.

The Hinckley-Big Rock School District currently is using local contractors to build an addition onto Hinckley-Big Rock High School.

“I’m a strong advocate of local control,” said Glen Littlefield, Hinckley-Big Rock Superintendent. He said it is local dollars being spent, so local people should have more control.

The Sycamore school district is building a $5 million fieldhouse using local contractors and subcontractors, said Luke Glowiak, Sycamore assistant superintendent for business.

“They’re capable through administration to put together appropriate proposals for local schools,” Glowiak said. “Any significant alterations would create additional red tape.”