By HEIDI DE LAUBENFELS
A noteworthy event took place in Idaho's 5th District Court this week when Judge Robert Elgee took the unusual step of dismissing one of the Blaine County School District's claims against McKinstry Essention regarding its work on several local school buildings.
Judge Elgee dismissed as baseless the district's contention that McKinstry engaged in "racketeering," an allegation that McKinstry has vigorously rejected as reckless and false. The judge also made clear that the district must prove its additional claims of alleged misconduct with specificity. McKinstry remains confident that the legal process will confirm that its approach on the project has been both professional and appropriate, and that all remaining contentions will be similarly dismissed.
Many people in Blaine County are aware that the School District and McKinstry are engaged in a lawsuit over payment for work that McKinstry—along with numerous local subcontractors—performed under the direction of School District personnel. McKinstry employees were surprised and saddened to confront allegations of misconduct after years of productive working relationships and a genuine and heartfelt commitment to serving students, schools and the larger Blaine County community.
It's important for residents to understand what a positive difference they have made by investing in their schools, and what a positive and responsible role McKinstry and its local subcontractor partners have played.
The levy approved by voters in 2009 has generated partial financing to make school facilities safer, more comfortable, environmentally friendlier, more efficient and more cost-effective. It has improved students' ability to learn more effectively—with improved lighting, reduced noise and comfortable temperatures.
Major improvements in air quality are reducing the transmission of toxins and disease and keeping students, teachers, parents and staff healthier. Systems that were aging and failing—along with some others that the district chose to update—have been replaced with solutions that dramatically reduce energy consumption and are easier and more efficient for the district to maintain.
On top of those benefits, three-quarters of McKinstry's work in Blaine County was done by local craftspeople who have earned a solid living while pouring their hard-earned dollars back into the local economy.
Blaine County residents can be very proud of these accomplishments. McKinstry certainly is. Here are a few key facts about how McKinstry has approached this work. It has:
l Procured a $5 million federal grant—saving taxpayers' money—to help the district make its facilities more energy-efficient.
l Finished a significant amount of work in order to meet completion obligations, despite the fact that the district had stopped paying McKinstry in full for its work as of August 2011.
l Employed numerous local contractors—and ensured they were paid in full. Between August 2011 and January 2012, when the district reluctantly started issuing joint
checks, McKinstry made substantial payments to the local contractors directly out of its own pocket. It was important to McKinstry that local subcontractors and their families were able to cover their expenses, even though the district had withheld their money.
l Arranged for $500,000 in utility incentives to support the improvements, again saving taxpayers' money.
l In conjunction with local subcontractors, completed the work with quality and excellence, on a schedule that ensured minimal disruption for students, teachers and staff.
McKinstry is a company with an exemplary record of safety, integrity, responsibility and collaboration that has inspired the majority of its clients to engage it repeatedly. McKinstry's goal is—and always has been—success for all people and institutions involved in its projects. It has been a privilege to bring McKinstry's positive values and uniquely integrated approach and dedication to long-term mutual success to Blaine County.
McKinstry congratulates the residents of Blaine County for their commitment to excellence—in their schools and throughout the community.
Heidi de Laubenfels is director of communications and external relations at McKinstry, which provides construction, energy and facility services.