Tekamah-Herman school 2018

Tekamah-Herman’s school board has a big job on its hands.

The board is the owner of several buildings on Main Street with the intention of solving at least some, if not all, of the challenges it has in finding enough space for its programs.

To help them sort through all the possibilities, the board likely will hire a consultant. The most likely candidate spoke with them for nearly an hour at a work session Jan. 23.

The board spoke with Russ Koch, who served for many years as the facilities manager at Fremont Public Schools. Koch also has assisted North Bend Central with its recent projects, including the construction of a new gym.

Koch outlined the services he can provide the board, including helping set priorities for future building uses.

Koch, who has the credentials to be a school superintendent after spending more than a decade in the classroom as an industrial arts teacher before getting into administration, said superintendents receive a lot of training, “but none of it is in facilities.

“A superintendent has everything else in the world to do. That’s why I didn’t become a superintendent. I like doing this. I like helping schools that need help.”

Superintendent Dan Gross said Koch has toured the district’s buildings and has seen the district’s strategic plan, “but it’s not a good working document. It doesn’t identify priorities.

Among the board’s priorities is converting the former Tekamah Motors building from a commercial space into an educational space. The board has expressed a desire to vacate the current Trades and Industries building across the street and have the new building in use by the fall term.

Having the T&I building empty gives the board more options in deciding what to do with the rest of the block. The school district owns all of the property north of the veterans hall and west to the creek except for the house west of the bus shop along M St. The district purchased that property with the help of Tekamah Community Foundation. The foundation saw the partnership as a way to help clean up Main Street and included the stipulation that the properties be levelled within two years of the first purchase. About a year remains in that time frame.

Koch suggested converting the dealership building will require the services of an architect, but added that he is well-versed in working with architects, engineers and other professionals in order to keep projects moving efficiently and cost-effectively.

“You tell me what you need done and I can get it done,” he said. “That frees Dan up to be the educational leader.”

He said the biggest traps schools fall into are not staying within a budget on projects and not being certain of the specifications on the projects they let for bids.

The key to a successful project, he said is doing the planning up front.

“Do it right up front,” he said, “but don’t overdo it.”

Koch said he works on an hourly rate and works as much, or as little, as a client needs. His rates are $80 to $95 per hour, depending on the job—the more intense the engagement, the higher his rate will be. For example, preparing for and facilitating a string of public meetings is more expensive because of the amount of preparation that’s needed.

A vote on retaining Koch’s services could come at the Feb. 11 school board meeting.