Welcome back to the blog! Today we are talking about the Agency Binder (or section) of your project record. If you are doing projects in a public entity, you have many masters. It is essential that you keep all the information; much of it will be needed at the end of your project for auditing. More importantly, it is needed to verify that you followed the process in place as you worked your way through the project approval and funding.
If you are reading this and you are not filing a California public school district, much of this section probably won’t apply to your project. California is rather agency intensive. But the principles still apply for city/county plan approval, health department, and any other required agency approval for your project.
This binder should contain every submittal and every document received from a public agency for the project. Identify them by tabs, indicating the form number, so that each document can be easily located. Include copies of everything you send with a form, such as Board Agenda items. Also include each response letter that constitutes an approval. (Each form submitted/approval received should be cross-filed in the Form Files for the district.) Some forms may be included in more than one project record.
California Department of Education — School Facilities Planning Division: Site Approval Letter and Plan Approval Letter are the minimum CDE documentation required at audit. Your CDE approved Ed Specs are important too, but are typically filed in the Planning Section.
Office of Public School Construction: uses the SAB 50-04 and the SAB 50-05 for verifications at the end of the project, so those forms should be kept in the project record.
(Look for a new addition to your OPSC approval letters — they should now include a reference to the version of the audit guide that will govern your project audit. This is one of the recommendations from the audit working group that was adopted by the State Allocation Board. OPSC will be including a Version ID on each audit guide and then letting you know upon project approval which guide will apply to your project. This has been requested for years and we are very excited that it is now happening.)
Division of the State Architect: also a DGS division, so their Plan Approval Letter with Date is critical. Your approval date is the date in the letter not the date on the stamp on the plans. The letter date is used because it establishes the age of your project for future modernization eligibility.
Department of Toxic Substances Control: will at least need to provide a No Further Action Letter. It is likely that the project will have significant additional DTSC correspondence. For many sites this becomes a binder (or series of binders) of its own. Each acquisition must show a site assessment and very few are approved without further investigation. Keep all correspondence and approvals. Each site is different, so this binder/section will develop along with the project.
Typical documents include:
Department of Industrial Relations: any projects with the public works contract being awarded on or after January 1, 2012 are subject to the Compliance Monitoring Unit (CMU) requirements. You will need to complete and submit the PWC-100 form (which used to be the DAS-13 form), after which the DIR will determine whether or not your project is subject to CMU compliance monitoring. For more details, take a look at the webinar available on the DIR website.
A project will also have local County and/or city approvals for ingress/egress and surrounding traffic requirements and approvals. The record should include a verification of submittal for review and comment. Even if the entities do not comment, the record should show that they could have commented.
So to use this information as the filing system, the binder would be titled “Agency” and each agency would have a tab. Their correspondence and forms would go in the section in date order or sub-labeled by form number. You can do most recent on top or the opposite, but be consistent. It will help the team get needed infomation easily.
And the most important tip of the day is this: whenever you have a verbal conversation with agency staff, always send a confirming email stating, “My understanding of our conversation is . . . If this is not correct, please let us know.” Or something like that. This email can become very important if the personnel changes at the agency. One district that I worked for was saved from paying the state $20 million because we had emails confirming we had permission to run the project as we did.
Useful links include: