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Rob Wilkinson's practice is focused on design and construction defect litigation. He has helped clients secure millions of dollars in settlements.  He represents a wide range of clients in Oregon and Washington, including owners of single family residences, apartments, townhomes, condominiums, and commercial buildings.

In recent years, we have seen many positive impacts from the new construction of “Green” school facilities around Oregon. However, it does not necessarily take a new building or a laborious remodel to create a more sustainable environment. Whether your buildings are brand new or years old, it takes just a little extra energy to generate the resources to reduce both waste and consumption, and facilities management staff members are perfectly placed to lead these efforts. The Oregon Green Schools Association has a program that centers on water, energy and waste conservation. The Bend-LaPine School District has a program called “Clean Sweep” that works to reduce classroom waste and encourage environmental responsibility. Both programs show what is possible in any school, new or old.

The Oregon Green Schools Association is a non-profit organization formed in 1997. The association works with schools through three levels of certification: Entry, Merit and Primer. It works with students, teachers and staff to recycle, reduce waste, save energy and conserve water. Approximately 200 schools participate in this program, and it continues to grow throughout the state.

The certification program has approximately 25 regional coordinators throughout the state. These regional coordinators help schools to conduct waste audits, provide guidance and training for new programs, and recommend curriculum resources and grant opportunities. At this time, the association is seeking “Sustainability Captains” to work within a school. There is even funding available to support this effort. For rural schools in locations with less than 23,000 people, or schools designated as Title 1, the association can pay a $1,000 stipend to the Sustainability Captain. This person can be any member of the school staff and will recruit and work throughout the year with a student “green team.” The green team performs waste, water and energy investigations, and implements conservation practices. The team’s main objective is to obtain Oregon Green School Certification, and can then attend the annual Green School Summit or even a regional showcase. For more information on this program, see the website at

The Clean Sweep program in the Bend-LaPine School District is another great example of sustainability work. In one elementary school program, the students and teachers take responsibility for making sure their classroom is tidied up at the end of the day, in order to make the evening janitorial team’s job a little easier each day. Students will help clean the floors, gather up any lost or spilled supplies, and empty all of the garbage cans and recycling bins – they even clean the halls and common area floors. The program not only helps children learn responsibility, but also to appreciate their school facility and the work that goes into keeping it clean. One class last year picked up – in one day – 90 pencils, 21 markers, 33 erasers and 5 glue sticks!

Every week, the building engineer awards one outstanding classroom the Golden Dustpan award. The class that wins the Golden Dustpan award the most times during the school year is awarded a popsicle party at the end of the year. For more information about Clean Sweep, you can contact Jackie Wilson, who also is the Board Chair of the Oregon Green Schools Association, at

The Oregon Green Schools Association and Clean Sweep show that reducing waste as well as saving resources and money for your school, is possible in all sorts of settings. Rural or urban, new construction or old, your facilities staff can make a difference in bringing sustainability into focus for your school.

Recipients of a grant under the Oregon School Capital Improvement Matching Program (OSCIM Program) must enter into a Grant Agreement with the State of Oregon. The Agreement includes several items that directly relate to the construction contracting process.

First, the Agreement requires the recipient of a grant to complete its construction project in “accordance with the Project plans, specifications and budget and, if applicable, to contract with competent, properly licensed and bonded contractors and professionals in accordance with the Oregon Public Contracting Code and all other applicable federal, state and local laws regulating projects of the same type and purpose.” This is pretty straightforward.

The Agreement also has a requirement that relates specifically to the plans and specifications: “If applicable, Grantee agrees to have plans and specifications for the Project prepared by a licensed architect or licensed engineer and to require that the Project meets applicable standards of survival in good condition.” That also is pretty straightforward; any plans and specifications should be prepared by licensed professionals and should be capable of withstanding naturally occurring events such as earthquakes.

The Agreement requires the general contractor to have a performance and payment bond in place until one year after the completion of construction “for the faithful performance and payment of all of the contractor’s obligations for the total cost of the Project.” This bonding requirement should be incorporated into the construction documents up front.

The recipient itself is required to “operate and maintain the Project in good repair and operating condition so as to preserve the public education benefits of the Project, including making all necessary and proper repairs, replacements, additions, and improvements.”

Finally, the Agreement requires lengthy record-keeping. Under the Agreement, the recipient is to keep all “books, documents, papers, and records that are directly related” to the grant and the project until three years after the bonds have matured or been retired.

Application forms, deadlines and additional information about the OSCIM Program, including a draft copy of the grant Agreement, can be found here. Michael Elliott, School Finance and School Facilities Program Analyst, is also available to answer questions about the OSCIM Program requirements.

School districts across Oregon have access to several types of state-funded grants. Two of these grant programs are administered by the Office of School Facilities (created by the Oregon Legislature in 2015): the Oregon School Capital Improvement Matching Program (OSCIM Program), and the Technical Assistance Program (TAP).

The OSCIM Program is the largest grant program for school construction and repairs. The OSCIM grants are “matching” grants intended to incentivize local voters to vote for school construction general obligation bonds. The funding for this program is split into two different funds. The first fund contains 60% of the money and is awarded to districts that have passed a bond, based on the Priority List established by the Office of School Facilities. The second fund contains 40% of the money and is awarded to districts that pass a local bond, based on a First in Time program.

Essentially, the OSCIM Program funds will match a local district’s local bond one-to-one up to $4 million, or the amount approved in the bond, whichever is less. After the $4 million, the Program may match a district’s local bond between $4 million and $8 million depending on the funding formula.

Since its inception, the OSCIM Program has awarded $125 million in grants. According to Michael Elliott, the School Facilities Coordinator, the OSCIM program “is providing safe and healthy schools to all of Oregon’s children by matching state dollars with local funds.” This year, Mr. Elliott reports that legislature has approved another $100 million in grant money spread out over the next two years. Twenty-five million dollars is available for each of the election cycles of November 2017, May 2018, November 2018, and May 2019.

In addition to the OSCIM Program, the Office of School Facilities manages the TAP. There are three types of grants under this program: (1) a facilities assessment grant, with a maximum award of $20,000; (2) a long-range facility plan grant with a maximum award of $25,000; and (3) a seismic assessment grant with a maximum award of $25,000.

Application forms, deadlines and additional information can be found at the Office of School Facilities link through the Department of Education’s website. Michael Elliott is also available to answer questions about these programs.

A third grant program also provides money for school construction and repairs. This is the Seismic Rehabilitation Grant Program (SRGP). This program is available through Business Oregon, an Oregon state agency. The SRGP is a competitive grant program that funds seismic rehabilitation. It is available to public K-12 school districts, community colleges, and education service districts.

The grants can be used to pay for improvements to existing structures, for architecture and engineering, and for project management. However, the grants cannot be used for buildings in a Tsunami Inundation Zone or for solely “non-structural” projects.

More information on the seismic rehabilitation grants can be found on the Business Oregon website. For those interested in applying for these grants now, there is training in Salem on September 14.

Once the dust has settled after a remodel or new construction is completed, it is tempting to put the project in the rear-view mirror and move on. However, that can lead to problems down the road if the construction project has not been properly documented. At the end of the process the owner should be in possession of all documents related to the project, from start to finish.

The owner should obtain and preserve all documents related to the project. These documents typically include contracts, change orders, architect or designer communications, photos and videos, samples and other physical objects, warranty and instruction information, notes from meetings, and correspondence. It is easy to overlook items like emails and text messages but it is important to collect and retain these as well. When a project involves an owner’s representative or project manager, all documents related to the project should be turned over from the representative or manager to the owner.

The owner should have a clear policy on how and where the documentation is to be retained. It may be best to print emails and text messages and file them with the other paper documentation. Keeping the documents in a safe location is equally important, as we have seen several instances where construction documents were ruined by flooding or a fire.

Finally, it is important to retain documents for a proper length of time. It won’t be helpful to an owner trying to sort out a construction issue or question if the documents are gone. Clients sometimes ask how long documents should be retained. Given that claims and questions can arise for years after a project is completed, the best course of action is to retain the documentation for at least 12 years.