IC Schools Pay $160,000 for ADA Study

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- The Iowa City School Board has agreed to pay tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to a Kansas-based company, with offices in Eastern Iowa, to conduct tests on playground surfaces.

A parent complained about Shimek Elementary's playground last year which led to the U.S. Department of Justice investigating the Americans with Disabilities Act compliance of the playground.

Last month, the school board awarded a contract worth nearly $160,000 to Terracon. The contract tasks Terracon with conducting tests on the district's playground surfaces.

But it appears Terracon was the only company the school board considered for the job. And that decision is not sitting well with a local business owner, and one school board member.

Antonio Malkusak is the president of Iowa City company Abundant Playscapes. In an email to members of the school board, Mulkusak said he is disappointed the project was not a competitive public bid.

Malkusak has expertise in playground ADA compliance. In spring 2017, Indiana-based Skulski Consulting recommended Malkusak to district officials as someone "well recognized in the field of playground design..." that could help the district live up to ADA playground standards.

Records obtained by I9 reveal Terracon has subcontracted ADA consulting to Skulski.

The fact that the Iowa City School District didn't consider the locally based company angers at least one school board member who voted no on the deal.

"So essentially we're asking someone who doesn't provide a service to provide a service and we ignored a company that already does provide this service," said school board member, Phil Hemingway. "We didn't even contact them."

Wednesday morning I9 reached out to Superintendent Stephen Murley, school board president Janet Godwin, and Terracon for comment on this story. Murley sent I9 an email late in the evening acknowledging he received our email, but we're still waiting to hear back from Godwin and Terracon.

I9 looked into district policy and found the board didn't violate any rules. I9 also obtained a district letter sent to board members arguing the move was also legal under Iowa Code.

Terracon is listed on the district's website as one of their "Design Pool Qualified Firms" but Abundant Playscapes is not on that list.


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