Union School District

It was unanimous at the Union R-XI school board meeting Wednesday night, that Topeka firm HTK Architects was a match for the district’s facility upgrades. 

The school board at a special meeting voted to work with HTK to help it plan, design and execute a new school building, and renovations throughout the district.

The board narrowed its choices down to three firms in preparation for the special meeting. HTK, Ittner Architects and Hoener Associates Architects presented to the board in hopes of securing its business. 

HTK President Mark Franzen pitched his firm’s service to the board in hopes of growing its business further into Eastern Missouri. HTK, headquartered in Topeka, Kans., has worked for 59 years in educational architecture.

Franzen laid out a game plan for the district that maps out the next few months. The time line for pre-bond planning, passing said bonds and supporting the school in its campaigning would be paramount in the coming months.

When asked by Superintendent Steve Weinhold if HTK could have the work necessary for the 2018 bond issue done before the later January deadline, Franzen said his firm absolutely could.

He said the support throughout the campaign to get the no-tax increase bond passed would include social media, website and general campaigning assistance. 

If the bond is approved the district and HTK will move to the design and construction process. However, if the bond were to fail, Franzen said the firm would bill the district for the hours it worked during the bond process. 

HTK’s fees for a new building operate on a sliding scale, meaning with the project size fees vary. But Franzen said on the district’s level of spending on renovations and a new building a 5.9 percent fee. He said that fee was negotiable.

During HTK’s presentation, Franzen reaffirmed several times that Union’s plans as a district would be important to the firm. He said he thinks together the district and HTK can build and renovate the district in the best way possible.

“You’re important to us. We want a good reference from you, we’d like you to say good things to us and have us back,” Franzen said. “We’re going to start in the planning process and it’s going to be collaborative,” Franzen said. 

Unanimous Vote

When it came time to make a decision, the board was on the same page. HTK stood out to the board as the firm to hire.

“I think HTK is just a good fit for Union,” said board member Amy Hall. “They sounded like people from our community.”

Board President Virgil Weideman agreed with Hall. He said the way HTK presented their business and their willingness to negotiate won him over.

“The thing that impressed me about them is that the owner of the company is determined that his business is based on his reputation and the way he does business,” Weideman said. “He wants to be successful because he does things right and takes care of his customers.”

Weinhold said now that HTK has been hired by the board, the district officials will meet privately to discuss the district’s specific needs. He said after that the firm will be present at a future facilities meeting with the public. That facilities meeting has yet to be scheduled.

At the district’s last facilities meeting, held in late September, Weinhold presented what he described as “soft numbers,” or early projections on what it would cost to build an elementary school on the district’s land near East Central College and construct a sixth-grade center addition on an existing school or property.

A K-5 or K-6 building at the district-owned land could cost in the range of $12.7-16.3 million depending on square footage. A sixth-grade center could cost anywhere from $3.8-4.9 million.

Together, Weinhold said, those projects could help solve the overcrowding problem at Union.

The total project, according to Weinhold’s early estimate, could cost $16.5-21.3 million.