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Fulton Schools Getting Lawyers Involved As Errors May Force Changes To Construction Project

The Fulton City School District is getting its lawyers involved to see if it can get back some of the money lost to errors in its district-wide construction project.

Superintendent Bill Lynch revealed this week that he has asked for legal opinions as members of the Board of Education expressed dissatisfaction with the cost of the mistakes and the problems those mistakes have caused.

It was sparked by discussion of yet another change required on the district’s athletic fields.  There was a discrepancy between the site drawings of the general contractor and the electrical contractor.  A trench that had been dug for electrical cable and refilled with dirt had to have the dirt removed and replaced with crushed stone.  Added cost:  $73,000.

“This field’s cost us a lot of money, huh?” said board member Dan Pawlewitz.

The athletic complex was supposed to have been completed in October.  Now, it won’t be ready until late next summer.  Workers found asbestos in the high jump and long jump pits that wasn’t found during the assessment.  That brought progress on the field to a halt as expensive asbestos removal took place.  Asbestos was also found in underground piping, though the district says that was not a foreseeable problem.

The delay meant that the rubberized track could not be laid down as it requires four days of dry, hot weather in order to set properly.  It’ll be summer before those conditions return, so the spring track season will be affected, just as the fall football season was.

Asbestos was also found beneath the tennis courts, which put that team at the city’s VanBuren Park courts for the fall girls season.

In the high school, another error.  The girls locker room renovation had to be revised when it was discovered that a beam slated to be taken out was a load bearing beam that had to stay.

Yet another mistake, in which drawings for a particular item were off by a couple of feet, added another $60,000 in costs.

The upshot:  The mistakes, along with the usual kinds of changes seen in a construction project, have drained 85% of the district’s $1.3 million contingency fund for the project, with a large portion of the project left to be done.

“That doesn’t give us a lot of room,” said board president Bob Ireland.

“We have to start discussions about what to do” to save money or remove items from the project in order to stay within the budget, said Terry LoConte, president of Ross Wilson and Associates, the district’s construction management firm.

“Is this typical?” asked Ireland of the extensive use of the contingency fund.

“No,” said LoConte.

“What expectation is there that there is some cost to the contractor, who we trusted?” asked board member Rae Howard.

That’s when Lynch revealed the district has been in touch with its lawyers and “put the appropriate players on notice.”

“There’s understandable conditions,” said Howard.  “But some of these things are too much.”

Lynch did not name the contractor, but many of the issues relate to the architectural drawings used to design the construction plans.

7 Comments

  1. This has been an on going saga with the administration of the school district and seems local government for as long as i can remember. Cost over run and justification for the open pockets of the taxpayers money. When will the end come? Even when a proposal is voted down there seems to be loopholes that alow the district and government to continue to drain us. Fiscal responsability and accountablity should be held at the lowest to the highest levels. If a contractor gives a bid that is what the cost should be. Why is there always something that is foune to drin=ve the cost up? Coincidence or no accountability?

  2. A contractor submits a bid based on Drawing and Specifications provided by the Architects and the Engineers. If work is required that is not outlined in those documents then the contractor is entitled to be compensated for it.

  3. FROM THE F-35 FOR THE U.S. AIR FORCE TO AN ATHLETIC FIELD FOR FULTON HIGH SCHOOL COST OVER RUNS HAVE BECOME COMMON PLACE IN THIS COUNTRY. IT HAS TO BE STOPPED,PLAIN AND SIMPLE!!!
    SO GLAD TO READ THAT THE SCHOOL BOARD HAS SOUGHT LEGAL ADVICE. GO GET ‘EM AND STOP THESE CONTRACTOR RIP OFF ARTISTS COLD IN THEIR TRACKS.
    AN APOLOGY TO THE HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETES AFFECTRD BY THE UNUSABLE FIELD,TRACK AND COURTS WOULDN’T BE A BAD IDEA EITHER.

  4. Prior to any SED (State Education Dept.) funded project, an asbestos awareness study is required. A district can complete one on their own or they can ask the architect to complete one. Those findings are shared with contractors and located in the drawings and specifications of the project. Was testing ever done on the athletic field? Were the findings ever shared with contractors? If “yes” then the contractor is responsible for the cleanup. But if not, then the burden lies with school district (as the owner) and the architect/engineer (as the designer). It’s easy to point a finger at the contractor or “rip off artists” but the reality is when architects and engineers do there jobs properly they limit the amount of unforeseen condition, thus limiting cost overruns. Let’s discuss the possibility of Asbestos exposure of our athletes…

  5. Tom:

    You make a couple of interesting points here.

    1. I’ll check on the asbestos awareness study — haven’t heard it mentioned but if it’s required by SED, then the question is who performed the study.

    2. The only one of the asbestos-related “surprise” issues I have any information on is the piping underneath the football field. The district has said that the drawings, which dated back quite a few years, showed some of the drainage pipes but no records were found that indicated what those pipes were made of. I’m not enough of an expert to say whether asbestos insulation was used commonly in *underground* pipes at that time, though we know asbestos was commonly used above ground.

    3. I’ll ask about the asbestos exposure issue.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments!

  6. Dave, I decided to comment after reading the article and Mr. Ritchie’s post. I’m assuming the change order for the athletic field asbestos clean up used a substantial amount of the contingency funds.

    Thanks for the kind words.

    Tom Callen

  7. Tom:

    I’ll add that question — how much of the contingency fund has been eaten up in asbestos-related change orders — to the list.

    Thanks!

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