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Updated: Tiger Paw snatches up top design prize

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Last edited 11:06 a.m., Nov. 11, 2022

The professionals behind Ozark School District’s Tiger Paw Early Childhood Center have won the Springfield Contractors Association’s Design Team of the Year award. 

The award was presented at the 38th annual Salute to Design and Construction Awards Banquet, held Thursday night at the Oasis Hotel & Convention Center. 

The Tiger Paw project’s lead architect, Melissa Higbie of Esterly Schneider & Associates Inc., described the renovation of a century-old administration building as “a great reuse of a building” in an interview with Springfield Business Journal last month. 

The team gutted the old administration building and completely remodeled and reconfigured the interior, she said. 

Joining Esterly Schneider in receiving the award were engineering firms Anderson Engineering Inc., civil; JS Smith Consulting Engineers PC, structural; and Smith-Goth Engineers Inc., mechanical, electrical and plumbing, with general contractor DeWitt & Associates Inc. Latta Technical Services Inc. of Dallas served as security consultant, and CJW Transportation Consultants LLC served as the road consultant. Andrea Nesbitt Designs was the interior designer. 

Hibgie told SBJ a remodel project is always harder than constructing from the ground up, with challenges in eliminating lead and asbestos and shoring up the envelope of the existing structure. 

She added that seeing the building in use was her favorite part. 

“I think the kids loved it,” she said. “They loved the colors, loved the space, the light. You can see it in their faces, how excited they are to be in class.” 

Higbie praised the team, which she said coordinated effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic to bring the project in on time and on budget for the district. 

In a video tribute leading up to the award, Gary Doke, a superintendent with DeWitt & Associates, said the project initially seemed overwhelming. 

“When I first got here, I really thought the best thing to do with it was demolish it,” Doke said, noting that eventually, the project came together beautifully. 

Curtis Chesick, assistant superintendent of the Ozark School District, said at a celebration of the building’s opening, students and staff restaged a photo first taken in front of the building in 1922. 

“They nearly match each other,” he said. 

Superintendent Chris Bauman said history is important to the district, but so is the education of the children who use the building today. Both come together in the Tiger Paw project. 

“I could not have been more proud to be part of this project,” he said. 

The two finalists for the prize were the Greene County Sheriff’s Department and the Wire Road Brewing Co. design teams. 

The annual banquet recognizes local design and construction leaders. Two Salute Lifetime Achievement Awards were given for a careerlong commitment to the design and construction industry. Recipients were Dianne Rankin of Morelock Builders & Associates Inc. and Garry DeLong of DeLong Plumbing, Heating & Air. 

Wayne Morelock, president of Morelock Builders, remarked that Rankin was one of the first women in Springfield to have the position of project manager and estimator. 

“She was large and in charge of everything we were doing,” he said, adding she expected others to do the job right. 

Upon accepting her award, Rankin, who is now retired, joked that she didn’t miss working, but she said she did miss seeing her colleagues. 

“I want to thank each of you for building our communities and for building our economy,” she said to the audience. 

DeLong was praised by customer Jimm Swafford of Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub for having the only plumbing company that had been in his restaurant in over 25 years. 

“You got that feeling that you were being taken care of and comfortable,” Swafford said. 

The Springfield Contractors Association presented the Developer of the Year award to Ozarks Technical Community College for the Robert W. Plaster Center for Advanced Manufacturing.  

Rob Rector, OTC’s vice chancellor for administrative services, credited Chancellor Hal Higdon for having the vision for the project. 

“In 2015, he walked into my office and said, ‘Hey, Rob, let’s build a center for advanced manufacturing.’ I said, ‘What is that?’ and he said, ‘We’ll find out,’” Rector said. 

Rector said the entire OTC team did an amazing job right up until the days leading up to the opening, when Higdon himself was driving floor cleaning equipment. With all hands on deck, the team made the deadline for the grand opening, Rector said. 

The American Institute of Architects presented the Superintendent of the Year award to Clay Alexander with Snyder Construction Group LLC for his work on Hollister Middle School. 

Taking the podium, Alexander said, “Anybody that knows me … knows that I’m not very good at public speaking. Unless I’m really angry.” 

He offered his thanks, noting his associates have all been great to work with and work for. 

The National Association of Women in Construction presented two Outstanding Women in Construction Awards. The Rosebud Award is given to someone who has been in the industry for less than 10 years and was presented to Jadan Scoggins with Commercial Builders LLC. The Vesta Award is given to someone who has been in the industry for over 10 years and was presented to Joyce Buxton with Buxton Kubik Dodd Design Collective.  

Heather Swearingen, project coordinator at DeWitt, praised Scoggins as someone who wants to be in the middle of it all. 

“She not only cares about the project she’s working on, but she cares about the people,” Swearingen said. 

Buxton was praised by her colleagues for her passion for interior design. 

Buxton said after 41 years, she was thankful for her choice to enter the field. 

“It’s such a great field that we’re all in,” she said. “We’ve been entrusted with the ability to help people realize their dreams, and I know we all take that very seriously.” 


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