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New architects in place for school jobs

The Farmington School District once again has architects at work on its construction projects.

At a special meeting Monday school board members approved agreements with Eagan-based Wolfgram Knutson architects and St. Paul-based Pope Associates to take over for DLR, the firm the district fired last month after DLR filed a breach of contract lawsuit against the district.

The agreement was not available in time for this week's edition but superintendent Brad Meeks said he does not expect the move to put either project over budget or at risk of falling significantly behind schedule.

Meeks said the district spread the jobs between two firms to avoid putting too much on the plate of either as they jump into the middle of active projects.

"It seemed to make sense to us to go with two firms to make sure one doesn't get spread too thin," Meeks said.

Wolfgram Knutson will handle the remainder of the work on the district's new high school building. For the most part that will mean answering questions and consulting on change orders as they arise. District administrative services manager Rosalyn Pautzke said Monday the firm had already consulted on issues related to a security door and a handrail.

"There will still be a lot of that going on," Meeks said. "Obviously a project that big, there's things that come up."

Meeks said the high school will need "a minimal amount of architectural oversight" between now and the time it's finished.

Pope Associates will take charge of planning the renovations needed to turn Farmington Middle School East into an elementary school and Farmington High School into a middle school.

DLR had done some early work on the remodeling projects but Meeks said representatives from Pope Associates have already started holding meetings with school representatives to identify needs for the remodeling projects and to put together their own plans. He said Monday Pope will not repeat work done by DLR.

Pope principal Steve Doughty said he hopes to finish meetings with teachers and administrators by the second week of January and finish plans for the projects by the middle of March.

"We're definitely focusing on the needs of what will get those two schools in operation," Doughty told board members.

Both firms came with recommendations from Partner Management, the district's current construction management firm. District administrators interviewed both.

Meeks said he expects both projects to be complete by the time schools open their doors next September.

"We're getting indications with the architects that they're not seeing any problems with getting done before school starts," he said.