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Fulton Board of Education OKs More Construction Changes, ‘Reluctantly’

Members of Fulton’s Board of Education, already frustrated with expensive changes to its ongoing construction project, reviewed a long list of new changes recently.

The number of official changes, as tracked through official construction documents known as change orders, is above 350 for the project that began last year. The vast majority of changes are routine and some involve credits to the construction budget, not added costs.

But this project, approved by voters in 2007, has had more than its share of problems that has left board members upset with the district’s architect. Top of the list is the failure to discover areas of asbestos at the athletic complex. The discovery brought the building of a turf field and reconstruction of the track, lighting and public stands to a halt. The delay cost the football team all of its home games and this spring, has forced the track team to lose its home meets as well.

Last Wednesday, the board heard about an expensive change to its new network operation center, a room from which all of the district’s computer networks are controlled. It will be housed at G. Ray Bodley High School.

Construction company manager Barry Rivet told board members that the center needed an uninterruptible power supply and more outlets for computer wiring. The power supply was not in the requirements given to bidders before the project was awarded, he said, and the number of computer outlets in the original architectural drawings was not enough.

“As we reviewed things, we found things we have to have,” said district official Cindy Garrett, who oversees technology.

The district and its construction management firm built a fund for changes into the project’s overall budget, but some changes have resulted in other parts of the project being removed from the plan in order to save money. The additional construction plan approved in 2009 by voters includes some items pulled from the 2007 plan.

Construction projects cannot spend one penny more than approved by voters.

The Board of Education only reviews change orders costing $15,000 or more. In many cases, the change has already been made to avoid slowing down and adding even more cost to the overall project. The district and its construction management firm will often negotiate with the other contractors about the final cost.

The change order for the network operations center required board approval. The vote was unanimous, though board member Rae Howard said she cast her yes vote “reluctantly”.