SCHOOLS PROJECT Architect questions changes in contract

Changes were made to give work to a minority company, a school official said.
YOUNGSTOWN -- A local architect is questioning why the city board of education has reduced by two-thirds the design work awarded to the company as part of the district's $200 million construction project.
K. Anthony Hayek, director of architecture at MS Consultants Inc. of Youngstown, said board members removed his firm from two school construction projects his group knows well and instead assigned the firm to design a different school it knows little about.
"I was not aware at any time that our work was not acceptable to the board," he said. "We've worked for three years with the board here; we've worked with the principals at the schools. We know the projects very well.
"We're really kind of puzzled as to why we were taken off projects we know and placed on another project."
The firm is one of four hired to design schools as part of a construction project that will build or renovate 15 schools, with 80 percent of funds coming from the state. An original plan was adjusted early this year after the state authorized the rebuilding of six schools that had previously been slated only for renovation.
This spring, the board reassigned the architects hired to work on these six schools.
The changes
MS Consultants had been working on renovations to the Williamson and North elementary schools and Volney Rogers Junior High School. After reassignments, the firm was left with Williamson, but North and Volney Rogers were assigned to other firms. MS Consultants instead received the contract for the new Mary Haddow Elementary School.
Hayek said a meeting was never held to discuss the changes before they were made. He told school board members at a meeting this week that the firm's work was cut by nearly two-thirds, explaining that the combined construction costs of the Williamson, North and Volney Rogers schools is $14.5 million compared to the total construction costs of $4.9 million for the Williamson and Mary Haddow projects.
Hayek said the firm made all deadlines early and was instrumental in determining that renovation funds for Williamson were inadequate, with employees helping to secure state approval for new construction of the school.
"We just don't understand, and we feel it's unfair," Hayek said. "We would like to ask you to reconsider. ... We have fun doing schools. It's a very special calling."
School board members told Hayek they would consider his concerns.
Minority, local hiring
Hayek also said his firm has worked to meet the board's goals of having more local residents, minorities and women hired on construction projects by hiring two people referred to the firm by the project's equal employment opportunity officer.
MS Consultants, he added, is the largest architectural firm in Youngstown, employing 107 people, 29 of whom live in the city. Of employees, 20 are minorities, five of whom live in Youngstown.
The board has awarded the Volney Rogers project to the Columbus-based Moody Nolan Inc. firm. Ricciuti Balog & amp; Partners Architects of Youngstown was awarded the North Elementary contract. Tony Deniro Jr., the district's executive director of school business affairs, has said changes in the contracts were made to keep 25 percent of contracts with minority firms. Moody Nolan, he said, is a minority firm.
"We understand the district has to give a proper share of work to minorities," Hayek said. "But we feel this could be achieved without taking work from us."

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