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Did The School Superintendent Deflect Questions About Conflicts of Interest Related to Rebuilding Kearns Campus?

I received a comment from a reader about School Superintendent, Dr Ember Conley’s, appearance on KPCW on Monday. The reader said:

On KPCW this am PCSD supt. Ember Conley was asked several questions about the potential conflict of interest with VCBO Architects running the planning process and then being the architectural firm for the design/construction of the project. Either she didn’t understand the clearly stated questions or she dodged the questions.”

I decided to go back and listen to the portion of interview related to the rebuilding of the Kearns Campus. Below is a transcript. I believe there seems to be some deflection going on… on many topics. That said, you should give it a read and decide for yourself.

I’d also encourage you to go listen to the interview on the KPCW website. They now post most “Local News Hour” broadcasts online.

Here is the transcript (to the best of my ability):

Leslie Thatcher (KPCW): The district or VCBO is moving forward with scheme 3. This would build a 5/6 school at Ecker. It would demolish the district office, Treasure Mountain Junior High, Relocate the track and field and football stadium to the east end of the campus. So, this is has really got to be the expensive scenario?

Ember Conley (School Superintendent): They have started pulling some numbers together and I anticipate to be able to look at those this week. The Master Planning Committee is doing a report. We finished our 3rd workshop for Master Planning and basically putting all of the input we have gathered from our stakeholders into a schematic for that. It is still very moldable and bendable and looking at the process we’ve used to engage our stake holders and how many different people we have that have been part of Master Planning, not just small a small group that has been part of the steering committee, that we really do have an organic and authentic initial plan that I would stress that this is… we are still in the initial stages to look at what that plan looks like for Kearns BLVD.

Leslie Thatcher (KPCW): I guess with the demolition of more buildings in the scenario that means that it will need to be rebuilt. Then talking about moving the stadium itself.

Ember Conley (School Superintendent): That’s massive.

Leslie Thatcher (KPCW): I’ve heard up to a million dollars that we spent on Dozier filed [already].

Ember Conley (School Superintendent): I know that we did an update on Dozier recently. I would say that there are so many possibilities with Kearns and as we look at Treasure Mountain Junior High we know that we have to do something. I would say that demolishing of any building at this point is a ways out just because right now we have got to be able to utilize the buildings to their capacity until we get our 5/6 building built that really is…we need to expand our high school for our students and courses and look at where we are going to put our 5/6 building and everything else will be under that umbrella.

Leslie Thatcher (KPCW): At one time, we talked about putting the high school at the PRI property at Kimball Junction where the Tech park is currently being built. If we were really to look outside the box, especially since the most of growth is taking place in the Snyderville Basin, should we take a look at that?

Ember Conley (School Superintendent): That has been a discussion topic of our Master Planning Committee from day one as far as what do we have available, where should we look at expanding. I would say in working directly with the city, there’s been such a great partnership with the city and …and … and our county I don’t want it to make it sound like we don’t have a great partnership with them. The campus on Kearns really does bring value to Park City municipal and to our our residents in Park City. So, there has been a conscious effort for us to keep the high school there along with our sporting facilities. That certainly is not to say that as we look at properties that we have elsewhere, of course you know we have bear hollow.. we have a parcel out at Silver Creek, we know that those are opportunities where we can be outside of Park City Municipal boundaries and into the Snyderville Basin.The other one we said that I wasn’t aware of, and now have become acutely aware of, is the space we have at Ecker and the flexibility that we have to expand to expand at that location anywhere from putting 5/6 there o expanding the aquatic center when the time comes. We have some nice pieces of property.

Leslie Thatcher (KPCW): So the price tag thrown around last week was upwards of $100 million. When do you get firm number. When do you decide whether we go forward with a bond in November’s election?

Ember Conley (School Superintendent): The June deadline is coming up for the bond and as you throw out the $100 million, I would say that that is the “dream” price tag. We know that the most immediate is a 5/6 school which runs about $20 million right now. So, that’s our estimate. We’ve worked with our internal business as well as VCBO and some outside estimates. So, as we look at the 5/6 school and we look at the expansion of the high school, and I’m talking facility and not football field, tennis courts, etc., etc. We are probably talking about $15 million because of the amount we need to do. So, you are looking, and I’m throwing rough numbers out, it definitely isn’t the $100 million price tag there.

Leslie Thatcher (KPCW): The reality though…going forward with the bond. 65% of the money will come from tax payers who don’t have the opportunity to vote. They are second home owners or business owners who live outside the school district boundaries. Isn’t that taxation without representation?

Ember Conley (School Superintendent): I disagree. We do have added value because of our excellent School District. When you look at why people …even if second homes..why they come here. Park City is know for its excellent education that we provide and …in a public venue which is unheard of across the nation, what we do. I would say that also we add value also to what we offer from anywhere from our aquatic center at Ecker I bring that up because it’s used by community to our fields, which are joint with our city. We are willing to share the property.

Leslie Thatcher (KPCW): Is it a conflict of interest having VCBO in all of this.

Ember Conley (School Superintendent): They have a contract with the District to do the planing or do the actual drawing. Once a decision is decided upon. I would say we were meticulous in researching this with our attorneys. And We received thee different opinions form Legal and they all came back that with the process we used to engage VCBO…the process we engaged for planners, we’ve been right on… Todd Hauber has been instrumental in making sure we followed the process specifically for securing through procurement and making sure there is no grey in VCBO.

Leslie Thatcher (KPCW): So they have been hired as just planners at this point

Ember Conley (School Superintendent): Right. They were hired for the planners in this process of master planning. In addition it is important to know that we have construction that goes on throughout the year. From remodels of classrooms… I mean..maintenance … and so we have gone through the procurement process and we have a contract that is ongoing with an architect and they have been the architect that has been chosen through he process. So, it’s very clear and there is no grey area.

Leslie Thatcher (KPCW): So, this wouldn’t be put out for an RFP to get the best bid.

Ember Conley (School Superintendent): So, the next process we have to engage in is…so as you know we have engaged in the financial and we have to look at even proposing a bond and then the next one is for construction and I have learned so much from Sean Morgan and Rory Murphy with their background in planning. I was always under the impression that it was very linear. So, the next process is pulling in a construction company.



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