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South Medford gets new manager

The Medford School District has replaced the project manager responsible for keeping its $82.8 million South Medford High School new construction project on schedule and on budget.

Portland-based Day CPM Services, a company with ties to the architectural firm designing the South project, was hired as the new project manager.

Portland-based Milstead & Associates and the district agreed last month to terminate their contract after district officials sent the project manager a list of complaints about its performance.

The Medford School Board on Tuesday approved awarding a contract to Day CPM for up to about $950,000.

Board members were informed of the relationship between partners from Mahlum Architects, which is designing the new South High, and Day CPM, said board member Eric Dziura.

"The way it was explained to us was they had worked on projects together before that were successful," Dziura said.

Among them was the new six-story "bed tower" at Rogue Valley Medical Center. Day CPM served as Asante Health System's project manager, overseeing Mahlum and other contractors, said Mike Day, the chief executive officer for Day CPM. He is also the son of former Medford School Board member Jack Day.

Mahlum partners have a financial interest in Day CPM but do not take part in decision-making for the company, Day said.

"We have always maintained a strict professional firewall between the companies," Day said.

The two companies use each other for consulting services and share administrative, accounting, human resources, marketing and insurance services, he said. They sometimes provide package services to private sector clients who request it, Day said. But when Day CPM serves as an owner representative, it treats Mahlum the same as other architects and contractors, Day said.

At least one school district critic doesn't like the new arrangement.

"This is a conflict of interest when the watchdog is related to the firm it's supposed to be watching," said Steve Plunk, a Medford resident who has criticized the district's management of the $189 million bond issue that funded the South project and 17 other school projects.

Superintendent Phil Long said design fees for South have already been determined. Day CPM's main task lies in keeping construction costs down, Long said.

However, as project manager Day CPM will review applications for payment, which could include Mahlum.

Day CPM will provide an on-site project manager for South, Long said. Day CPM will also provide monthly reports about the South project for the school board and the public. The reports will be available at an informational meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at Harvest Baptist Temple, 2001 S. Columbus Ave.

Board member Larry Nicholson began expressing displeasure about Milstead's performance late last year when the district received only one proposal from a contractor to build South.

In a Jan. 11 letter to Milstead, the district complained that the project management company had failed to contact out-of-state contractors to submit proposals for constructing the high school. District staff had to contact out-of-state firms to generate interest in the project, district officials said.

Hogan Construction, of Centerville, Utah, was the only company to submit a proposal to construct South High and was ultimately awarded the project.

District officials said Milstead also did not respond to district requests for information in a timely manner.

Milstead, in a response Jan. 22, claimed the district had hamstrung it from performing some of its duties by instructing it not to have contact with contractors.

"We were doing what we thought we were supposed to do," said company president Jerry Milstead. "We've never had this happen before."

The district has paid Milstead about $40,000 for its services.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.