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PAISD to adopt $195M bond website

Skanska to brief public on $135M construction

Port Arthur residents will soon be able to keep abreast of all developments, large and small, of the Port Arthur Independent School District’s $195 million bond.

Skanska USA Building Inc. — the firm selected by the PAISD board of trustees to oversee the entire life of the “full bond,” amounting to $135 million in projects that require an architect, engineer or construction manager-at-risk to complete — has developed a bond website that will be accessible through the main PAISD homepage.

“This website will be the public’s place to look for any updates, including pictures and videos, about the $135 million worth of projects we’re overseeing,” Chris Koeper, Skanska senior manager, said. “We want to let the community know how their money is being spent.

“We’ll have a brief description about the program, specifically about the core of the project — the three new schools. And then each project will have its own page with photos while the work is going on, any preliminary designs we have to show the community what it’ll look like, and biweekly or monthly updates about where the project stands.”

Koeper said besides live updates about major and minor construction projects, the bond website will also serve as a central space for local vendors and firms to find opportunities to work — and training to get started.

“The district is required to post all of their solicitations for bids and qualifications on their website, but some of our beginning or small firms and vendors may not know where to go. It may be easier for them to assume all of that information will be under ‘bond,’ so that’s where we’re putting it on our side. We’ll have all the information the district already posts — advertising for upcoming projects, requests for qualifications and opportunities to bid on individual projects — but in one central location.

“We’re also going to have a small business tab that will serve as the main page for our local, minority and women-owned businesses. The district has hired a consulting firm to bring in these businesses and make sure they know of the opportunities available to them, especially with smaller projects or how to partner with other businesses to bid on a larger project. We’ll be posting all their information on that small business tab.”

Koeper said Skanska is a global company with more than 50,000 employees. Skanska has done several projects in the Port Arthur region over the last 10 to 15 years, he said, and the workers are familiar not just with storm threats to the coast but the strong communities that make up Southeast Texas.

Koeper said Skanska will do two things during the life of the $135 million full bond to make the process as transparent as possible.

“The first thing I want to do is create YouTube videos for our students. Skanska has a strong reputation in K-12 builds, and part of the reason why is because we get the students involved,” he said. There aren’t many learning environments greater than a construction site, because you can find an avenue to relate it to just about every field we know of. I think it’s great for the students to see what’s going on and spark that interest early.

“Concrete pours are great chemistry examples at these types of builds and you can make it more complex to talk to high school kids interested in that field or you can tone it down — give a second grader a hard hat and let them make handprints in the concrete slab for their future playground. If we have students interested in what we do, we want to give them the chance to see it and get their hands dirty if that’s what they want to do.”

The second thing Skanska will do, Koeper said, is create a community tab on the new bond website and host public meetings around town.

“We do want to keep the community informed of everything, because it’s not enough to just say, ‘Work’s about to start,’” he said. “We want them to know how that work is going to impact their day-to-day — from road and site safety to traffic detours to what their children will deal with at school that day. Between the website and the meetings we’ll host with the district around town, the community will have the bigger picture.”

Koeper said the first community meeting will either be scheduled for the end of 2015 or the beginning of 2016.

The PAISD bond website will go live early next week and can be accessed through the district homepage, www.paisd.org.

Twitter: @crhenderson90