College STEM-H construction contract approved

San Juan College board members approve $5.4 million construction contract for School of Science, Math and Engineering renovation project

Joshua Kellogg

FARMINGTON — The San Juan College Board approved a $5.4 million construction contract for the renovation and expansion of the college's School of Science, Math and Engineering during its meeting tonight.

Monique Pine, of Kirtland, cleans out materials used during a lab Nov. 5, 2014, in an introduction to chemistry class at San Juan College. College board members approved an expansion of the School of Science, Math and Engineering on Tuesday.

The board members approved a “guaranteed maximum price” of $5,428,678 set by FCI Constructors, the construction manager at risk for the project.

FCI Constructors worked with the architecture firm Dekker/Perich/Sabatini to determine what the maximum price of construction for the project would be, college Vice President for Administrative Services Ed DesPlas said.

If the cost of the project runs over the maximum price, FCI Constructors will pay the overage.

The $7 million project is well within the school's budget, DesPlas said. Funding of $3 million comes from a 2015 bond sale and $4 million comes from a 2014 state bond sale.

The multi-phase project will include the construction of three new classrooms, the conversion of three existing classrooms into laboratories and the renovation of about 43,000 square feet of existing space.

DesPlas and Chris Harrelson, physical plant senior director, will present the project to the New Mexico Higher Education Department Capital Improvements Committee for approval Wednesday morning.

If approved, work could start on the project next month. Construction is scheduled to be completed in May 2018, Harrelson said.

Students Gretchen Gray, left, Christopher Reece and Devin Signs work together Nov. 5, 2014, during a science lab at San Juan College.

The college staff will meet with FCI Constructors to work on a plan to complete the project while minimizing the impact on student instruction.

“It’s a lot of work, and it’s right in the middle of campus,” Harrelson said. “It’s probably one of the more difficult renovations we’ve done.”

Board members also approved the college’s 2015-2016 financial report that contained three audit findings for the college and one finding for the San Juan College Foundation. The report was prepared by the Albuquerque office of auditing firm RPC CPAs and Consultants LLP.

DesPlas described the college’s three findings as minor findings, which were labeled “other noncompliance” in the report by the auditor.

The college’s foundation received the only finding labeled a “significant deficiency.” The auditors believed there were not enough controls in place to monitor the credit card purchases made by foundation Executive Director Gayle Dean.

DesPlas said the auditors had a concern because the credit card purchases weren’t reviewed on a monthly basis but on a quarterly basis during the foundation’s board meetings. The credit card purchases will be reviewed on a monthly basis during meetings with Dean and college President Toni Pendergrass.

One finding was discovered when reviewing travel reimbursement and per diem paperwork. A person not employed by the college was reimbursed about $1,450 for travel expenses, according to the report.

The person was working for the college on a pro-bono basis to help secure a federal grant and traveled with the college staff to Washington, D.C., to attend a conference, DesPlas said. There was no contract in place with the person to reimburse travel costs, the report states.

In response to the finding, the college will develop a procedure covering nonemployee travel and ensure all nonemployees have a contract to conduct business with the college.

Another finding stated the college did not follow its procedures regarding the grant application process.

Three grant applications reviewed by the auditors did not include paperwork required for submission to the college’s Grants Planning Committee for review.

DesPlas said the finding falls into an area where the college didn’t follow its own internal procedures. To resolve the finding, the college is working with a consulting firm to review its grant process and will update procedures depending on the review.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.