The following is the major portion of a paper written by Charles T. Clark covering the public school situation in Bay City as it is found today. Mr. Clark is a member of the citizens’ committee which has been in close touch all the year with building operations on the east and west sides of the river. The paper has been read before a number of clubs and societies that they might know the facts as they exist, and to set at rest a number of rumors which have been set in motion by persons who may have been governed by malicious intent. Every school elector in Bay City should read the paper and give full consideration to the things which are set forth therein. The paper follows:
It is a singular fact that Bay City has no school building belonging to the public school system that comes up to the essentials, let alone the full demands of modern, scientific education. In this respect Bay City is as hopelessly outclassed as were the English when America won the America cup and there was no Englishman near enough to be even in sight.
A decided start has been made, however, toward bringing us to a place, I hope and believe, second to none, as a result of the bonding election held in 1919 at which time Bay City voted to spend $1,000,000.00 for new schools.
Unfortunately before we were able to start on our building operations we ran into the era of constantly and rapidly increasing costs so that by the time the plans for these buildings were completed and bids received we found, to our dismay that the bids for the academic part alone of the Central high were nearly double the amount allowed for the whole of that building. The bids for the academic portion alone totaled over $831,430.00 without equipment or architect’s fees, whereas the amount allowed in the bonding proposition for the entire building was only 600,000.00.
Could Not Be Foreseen.
This was an outcome that could have been foreseen by no man because of the fact that the causes leading thereto were beyond any man’s foresight or control. In 1915 the cost of erecting buildings, according to the Dow Daily Bulletin, on an average was 15c per cubic foot, in the early part of 1919 it was 22c per cubic foot, in the latter part of 1919 it was 32c per cubic foot, and in 1920 it was 64c per cubic foot. Thus you will readily see not only the difficulty but also can appreciate now much it turned down the proposition of building a new school. That which could have been built and equipped in 1915 for $600,000.00 will today cost nearly three times that.
Plans Well Designed.
In this situation I was able to lay the whole matter before the engineering staff of the General Motors and DuPont corporation. These gentlemen gave the matter full consideration and without any thought except the welfare of the town and told us first, that our building plans were well designed from the standpoint of appearance and low cost of construction, that is, that there was an absence of frills which cost money and which really detract from the dignified appearance so desirable in educational buildings.
Second: They advised we do not build by contract as their experience with contracts during the greatly disturbed conditions had been very unsatisfactory. They did advise we build under the direct supervision of the board, because only in this way could advantage be taken of descending costs, if, and when, descending costs came. This could be done by hiring competent engineers to take charge of the work or on the cost plus plan. I discussed with them the proposal made by the Henry C. Weber Construction company and they agreed that this was an exceptionally liberal offer and they strongly advised its acceptance in preference to any other proposition. The Weber proposition briefly was this: They were to be paid 6 per cent of the cost of the general construction if the two new buildings were erected in their entirety or 7 per cent if only portions of these buildings were erected. They were to furnish all tools, scaffolding and equipment without charge to the board, they were to furnish a competent bookkeeper to keep account of all labor and material without charge, the service of Henry C. Weber were to be performed without charge, and they were to receive no compensation in any form for architect’s fees, insurance premiums, wiring, electrical work and fixtures, gas piping and fixtures or any furnishings and interior equipment of any kind. In other words they received compensation only as regards foundations, walls, floors, and roofs of this building all summed up under the term “General Construction.” In addition to this Henry C. Weber would turn over to the board valuable options on cement, brick and other material without compensation of any kind. They would also have a working organization and those of us who have had to organize building operations or plants know what this means in lessened costs and in ease of mind. It cost lots of money to fully organize and develop an efficient outfit.
These recommendations were fully discussed at a large meeting of the citizens’ committee and they were heartily concurred in by this committee which contained some of the most prominent men and women of this city.
Donovan On Guard.
The board of education adopted this plan of operation that had been recommended by these various bodies and entered into a contract with Henry C. Weber Construction Co., for the general construction and with local firms from time to time on other features of the work. In order to safeguard the interests of the city the board of education announced a building committee of three of its members and asked the citizens’ committee to appoint an equal number. The original members for the board of education consisted of H. B. Aurand, M. S. Babcock and Dr. Alton; subsequently C. H. Frantz was appointed to take the place of Dr. Alton who had been defeated for reelection. The members of the citizens’ committee consisted of J. A. Johnson, E. G. Ferris and myself. The building committee, after organization, appointed an emergency committee consisting of John Donovan, Alvin H. Weber and Frank F. Price. This emergency committee is directly in charge of the work of construction and meet daily to discuss details. John Donovan, chairman of this committee, is constantly on the work, checking receipt of materials, number of men employed and watching the quality of the work done. The emergency committee do not have the power to buy over $500 of any material without first securing the approval of the building committee and I might say they seldom exercised even this right.
When Committees Meet.
The building committee meets once every week at noon, usually on Wednesday, to consider the general program of work. The emergency committee always meets with us and also such other people as are interested in any matter under discussion. We felt that with a contractor of the high moral and quality standards of Henry C. Weber, and with the other safeguards used, that there was little or no likelihood of any grafting or other unmoral practices and as a matter of fact and of record, I want to say as emphatically as I can that there has been none. The high character of the men composing this committee ought to be a guarantee of careful and useful expenditure of money.
Under the terms of the contract with the Weber corporation we have paid to them to May 1, $26,698.06 on the Central high school and $5,348.92 on the T. L. Handy Junior high school. On the general construction amounting to a total of $500,528.70 it strikes me that Bay City has gotten off mighty cheaply. Under the option for brick and cement turned over to us by the Weber Construction Co. the city has saved a good percentage (about $18,900) of this as we were enabled to get this material very much under the market of that time.
Now to discuss the Weber compensation I want to say that the usual practice of such corporations as du Pont, General Motors, U. S. Steel, American Sugar Co., West Virginia Paper & Pulp Co., Stone Webster Co., and others, is to allow 15 per cent of the cost of buildings for engineering, superintendence, etc., in addition to the cost of tools. scaffolding material, etc., which is generally put at 5 per cent to 10 per cent more, or 20 to 25 per cent as a total. Bay City pays 6 per cent to Weber, and 6 per cent to the architects and pays nothing for tools, etc.
The Weber Construction Co. has gone at this matter from the standpoint of the interested, patriotic citizen and should be praised for the quality of the service to the city. Its constant thought, like that of each of us, is to try to save all the money they can. Just one or two instances to illustrate this: The architects specified a certain weight of reinforcing steel to be used. Alvin Weber figured this over, believed lighter steel could be used, converted the building committee to his opinion, obtained the ratification of the architects and the change was made with a saving to the city of several thousand dollars. The same thing was true when he advised the substitution of white brick for face brick in the boiler settings and gypsum plaster for lime plaster on the ceilings and walls. There are instances of this constant thought and I cannot conceive that men so actuated can be truthfully accused of deliberate robbery of the city and robbery even in small things is as bad as robbery in larger. A man’s reputation for honesty and good citizenship is of far more worth to him than any money and it is a cruel wrong to rob him of this.
We have heard much of the recklessness of the board in buying cement. You have been told the paid extravagant prices for it and bought it in extravagant quantities. What are the facts? The board bought just enough to build the foundation and necessary work on Section A, or the academic portion of each building and paid for this $2.38 per barrel after deductions. At the very time the board bought this the price had advanced, as I recall it, to $3 per barrel, and within a few weeks to $5 per barrel. Even now the price is $2.43 per barrel.
The same thing is true of brick. We bought our common brick for $16.20 per M, although the current price was $18.50 per M. The price went to $25, (at least that is what I paid for it in carload lots) but has fallen to $15.20 per M. Face brick cost us $29.50 per M; the market price was $35, and advanced to $50 per M. They are today selling for $29.50 per M.
Another Idle Rumor.
You have heard the story of the board forgetting to provide for boilers, you have heard how they spent $2,200 to get the boilers placed (although the fact was it cost $880 to place not only boilers but all other boiler room machinery), and so on through the whole gamut of exaggerated or worse stories. Stories founded on fancy, no one asked for the fact and yet talked over as though they were fact.
I have gone into this matter at some length because I want you to know what were the facts. I pledged myself in 1919 to watch the expenditure of money carefully and I have kept faith with all the ability, all the moral conscience I have.
The board has also made contracts on a percentage basis on the plumbing, electrical work, painting and glazing, and the roofing. Under these contracts they have paid on May 1, the Ideal Plumbing Co. $11,222.77, Thorne Electric Co. $763.69, Charles M. Hart $771.25, and Fred Lutz $20.30. We have spent a total to May 1st of $592,280.24 on the Central high school, academic portion, and it will take about $219,070.60 to complete this section equipped. To complete and equip the Central high school as originally designed will cost $598,778.00 more of a total additional amount on the entire building of $817,848.80. The total final cost of the Central high school building would then be $1,410,129.00, including $24,390.00 for walks, playgrounds, parking grounds, etc., on the grounds.
The amount required to complete the T. L. Handy Junior High building will be $456,582 in addition to the appropriation of $300,000 granted making the final cost of this building $758,582.
To the amount mentioned the building committee has recommended $20,000.00 to be used in painting the inside walls of the grade schools of the city and the most of them look as if they haven’t been painted since the Civil war or the flood. They have also recommended a four room addition each with small gymnasium to the badly congested Lincoln and Trombley schools.
East Junior High.
You will note that nothing has been allowed for the East Side Junior high school and this is because we think the money originally provided for this, viz. $100,00 plus interest, will be sufficient to enable us to make the necessary changes to the present East Side high school.
Amount Yet Needed.
The total amount of money to be raised by farther issue of bonds is $1,400,000.00 using the nearest whole numbers. You will say this is a lot of money, and I fully agree with you, but it is part of the penalty Bay City has been paying because of its short sighted vision in the past and is part of what it must pay if it is going to take a place among the progressive cities of Michigan. As compared with the original lowest bids obtained in 1920, the completed Central high school shows a saving of $143,615.52 on general construction, of $21,152.40 on plumbing, heating and ventilation and of $6,033.24 on electrical work or a total apparent savings of $170,801.16. The cost of Section A when completed will be 50.6c per cubic foot, the whole Senior high school including Section A will cost 43.6c per cubic foot, and the T. L. Handy Junior High school will cost 39.8c per cubic foot.
These figures compare favorably with the cost of 64c per cubic foot that prevailed in 1920, with the present day costs as determined by actual bids of 41c per cubic foot and indicate that the method used by the board for construction during 1920 was not a failure but as State Supt. of Schools T. E. Johnson writes me was a remarkable success. In fact this very plan of operation has just been adopted by the Wildman Rubber Co., just building a $500,000.00 plant here, and was adopted by the advice of their consulting engineers because it would give the lowest cost in a period of descending costs. They do not have as advantageous contracts as the board of education because the citizens doing the work for the board made these contracts on the lowest basis possible in order to keep construction costs down. It was true citizenship on their part.
The Problem Before the People.
The problem for us to consider now is whether Bay City can afford to spend such amounts as these on its school system and is it justified in spending such amounts on modern education.
Bay City has a population of about 43,000 people and a valuation of about $49,000,000. If the proposed bonding issue carries it will have a total of school bonds of about $2,500,000. The new issue will be about 3 per cent of its wealth or about $30 per $1,000 valuation, which, divided through the bond period of 15 years, means about $2 per $1,000 per annum plus interest say at 6 per cent. My house is assessed at $5,000. The new issue will cost me $10 per year in taxes, plus interest. Could I educate my children, if I had any, to take advantage of the new school, or you your children, for less money than this?
Muskegon, with 37,000 population, has just bonded itself for $2,000,000 in addition to debts already incurred and by vote of 7 to 1.
Saginaw, west side, with a population, of 27,000, with a valuation of $31,000,000. has just bonded itself 8 to 1 for $950,000 for new schools in addition to a present bonded indebtedness of $1,075,000 or a total of over $2,000,000.
A town which spends money on itself gives to the stranger the feeling that the town is sure of itself, that it has faith in its own future.
Why City Does Not Grow.
We love Bay City, but how are we to explain the fact that Bay City has been practically stationary in population during the past 20 years and has been passed in population and wealth by Lansing, Flint, and other cities of Michigan. There is a reason for this stagnant condition and the confidential reports I have seen of manufacturing corporations on Bay City give some of these reasons. In brief, Bay City is called a non-progressive city; it does not furnish the environment which modern corporations believe should be present in order to make the contented workman. It requires more than wages for this, it requires an adequate educational system, up to date transportation system, good and sufficient housing, clean water, recreation facilities and all those things which provide for the material comfort and innate desire for better things of the most of our native citizens, if indeed, we cannot say of the whole white race wherever it may be or whence it comes. Those cities which thrive the most are those cities which most adequately supply these more than essentials. We do not provide facilities for training our youth along various mechanical and other trades and the result is that those boys when they graduate from our schools, even if they do graduate, have no knowledge of practical things. Manufacturing establishments like to feel there is an atmosphere favorable to their trade. Mechanical shops like to be located where the stream from which they draw their supply of trained men is ample in volume, as finished as possible in fundamental working knowledge, and self perpetrating in its supply. This is why such establishments favor the vocational training or trades school because the young men understand the language of chemistry or electrical science, or the whole range of practical knowledge.