Prior Lake Schools double down despite pressure to dump consultant

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Prior Lake residents skeptical of the school district's relationship with Nexus Solutions file into a recent board meeting — under the watchful eye of a police officer. Cory Zurowski

Dr. Dave Lund, the principal at Prior Lake High School, was none too pleased. A number of the people attending a recent Prior Lake-Savage Area School Board meeting held signs the educator felt were up in his business.

"Get those signs out of my face," spouted Lund, according to two people who were in attendance.

Although nobody was violating his personal space, Lund had good reason to be salty.

At a time when increased scrutiny of the district's generous contract with Nexus Solutions casts school officials and staff in a dubious light, the district is trying mightily to present a unified defense.

Nexus -- a one-stop construction services shop specializing in consulting, planning, and building --has thus far collected close to $9 million in fees and bonuses while overseeing about $35 million worth of various upgrades and renovations in the district.  

As was apparent at the meeting, doubts over the relationship with the consultant look to be multiplying.  

"Nix Nexus," "Nexus No," and "Enrich our kids, not Nexus," read some of the signs in the gallery. 

According to Prior Lake Police Chief Mark Elliot, a district staffer contacted the department minutes before meeting was scheduled to start.

"There was really no reason for us to be there, but when people call, we respond," he told the Prior Lake American.   

Some residents raised the potential conflict of interest when a consultant is making money on the very construction projects it proposed. They also questioned the wisdom in signing a five-figure contract in which Nexus could reap tens of millions of dollars in various fees, expenses, and bonuses. 

Nonetheless, district officials are doubling down on their play. In the wake of City Pages' January cover story, "Hook, Line, and Suckered," the district released a lengthy statement justifying the arrangement. (Board members did not respond to messages seeking comment.)

Meanwhile, the board is slated to vote on yet another contract with Nexus next week.

The Long-Term Maintenance Facilities Plan involves dozens of projects at various schools. The total price tag is almost $13 million, of which Nexus is to oversee about $6 million worth of work. The district will manage the remainder. 

One such project for which the company will be responsible for is $6,000 to "Update Staff Toilet Room" at Grainwood Elementary.

Notably absent from any of the documentation is how much Nexus will earn for the work.  

Turns out the firm has been given the contract without the board yet deciding what Nexus will be paid. Prior Lake Schools spokesperson Kristi Mussman says that'll be decided at Monday night's meeting.  

 


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