In a departure from past practice, the Riverside District 96 Board of Education has hired an owner’s representative to oversee construction work on its schools this summer.
Work has already begun on renovations at Blythe Park School and Hollywood School as well as some additional work at L.J. Hauser Junior High School. Last summer Hauser, Central and Ames Schools underwent major renovations.
At a June 11 special meeting the school board voted unanimously to hire Vistara Construction Services and its owner Ramesh Nair to serve as the district’s owner’s representative from June 1 until Oct. 31. Vistara will be paid $45,032 for its services.
“My company as an owner’s rep is going to be your eyes and ears on the project,” Nair told the school board on June 11. “That’s the important thing. I’m going to report back directly to you when I see an issue.”
Nair will act as the board’s and district representative on the project making sure that work gets done promptly and correctly.
“If there are misunderstandings I’m the person between who tries to solve them as quickly as possible, because we’ve got to keep the job moving,” Nair said. “You don’t really have time to stop unless it’s a serious problem.”
Nair founded Vistara 18 years ago. The company has a done a lot work overseeing school construction for the Chicago Public Schools and charter schools. He said that he, or a representative from his company, will be on site most every day for at least part of the day.
Vistara was chosen from a group of three firms that were interviewed by board members Lisa Gaynor and David Kodama.
“His background, his ability to communicate, his expectations, how he would approach the position and these expectations were well aligned with what we were looking for,” Kodama said.
Kodama said that the transition to a new superintendent made hiring an owner’s representative imperative this summer. Incoming Superintendent Bhavna Sharma-Lewis is not starting at district until after construction has already started and former superintendent Jonathan Lamberson retired before work began this summer.
“Last year we had Dr. Lamberson, who was well aware of the needs and expectations of the project,” Kodama said. “We need someone to assist Bhavna in that whole process.”
Nair is preparing regular updates on the construction work that will be posted on the District 96 website. The first was posted Monday, and updates will be posted every few weeks, Nair said.