Kevin Gunnison

Kevin Gunnison of Volkert made a pitch for his firm overseeing construction of the new Guntersville High School. 

The City School Board is preparing to build a new $45 million Guntersville High School and D. Kevin Gunnison of Volkert Inc. made a presentation Monday night about overseeing the construction of the school on behalf of the City School Board.

He indicated the savings his company could produce for the School Board in terms of catching design flaws, limiting change orders etc prior to bidding could more than offset his firm’s fee for overseeing the project.

That fee is typically 4 percent, which would come to $1.8 million on a project of this magnitude. Gunnison did tell the School Board the fee is negotiable on something of this scale.

Supt. Jason Barnett said after the meeting that there is a lot of benefit to having a boots-on-the-ground supervisor overseeing a project like a new high school. But he said the School Board will talk to at least one more firm and possibly others. He has used construction management firms on some past projects when he was superintendent in DeKalb County and he has seen the benefits firsthand.

For the School Board, it will come down to a cost-benefit analysis to determine if they want to go that route.

Gunnison said his firm has been in business 95 years and has 7 offices and 1,100 employees with expertise in many areas of construction.

“While you will have a supervisor on-site, you’re not just getting that person,” he said. “You’re getting a team.”

One employee who lives nearby is a former member of the Alabama Building Commission, he said. The Building Commission has to sign off on any plans submitted by the School Board on the new high school.

“We have overseen more than 500 projects representing $3 billion in investments in the past 20 years,” Gunnison said.

Gunnison himself was the boots-on-the-ground manager for James Clemens High School.

“We had zero change orders and we came in on time and within budget,” he said. That school was built in 22 months’ time.

They have worked with Alabaster City, Jefferson County and other school systems in recent years.

“The plans are being drawn and now is the time for us to get involved,” Gunnison said.

He said all pay requests will go through his office for review, then be submitted to Guntersville’s Chief School Financial Officer. He said they would update the board on progress at least once a month, more frequently if requested.

“We would really like to be part of this project,” Gunnison said.

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