Patience runs low as Northeastern school construction faces further delays
School officials are losing their patience with the contractors behind the Northeastern High School renovation after a series of delays that may push some parts of the project back to the spring.
Tyler Kramlick, a board member who serves on the committee overseeing the renovations, said taxpayers lose money with every delay.
"Because the project went over 39 months," he said, "the taxpayers today are going to have to pick up a bill of over $50,000 just for the architect — and that doesn’t mean it’s ending."
Construction company representatives updated the board Nov. 7 with their progress. A Quandel Construction spokesperson said the change orders through the end of October total $975,168.59. The total contract price is $29 million, leaving the board with roughly $6 million in surplus so far.
Dustyn Speelman, a project manager for Lobar Inc., said the contractors are focused on completing the interior of the building. They recently received the wrong cement, he said, thus delaying completion.
At the same time, he said contractors are watching the weather because they cannot install the product once the temperatures dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Paving is also a concern because the top coat is sensitive to the weather.
Speelman said that if the tasks aren't completed in the fall, they will be completed next spring.
Kramlick reminded Speelman the district’s builders’ insurance ends at the end of December. During his routine meetings with the construction company, he said he's pushed the contractors to continue working on nights and weekends.
The crew did five 10-hour days and kept asking for extensions, which the district granted, the school board member said. But Kramlick added that his patience is running thin. He does not expect the district to grant more extensions.
Kramlick added the students began their year with seven days of virtual schooling so the construction could wrap up. Only two subcontractors were working in the building when the administration went in to clean it up because the construction crews didn’t want to impact the building preparations. Students have been going to classes in the building since early September.
For his part, Speelman told the board at its Nov. 7 meeting that Lobar expects to complete its concrete work by Friday.
Kramlick asked if Lobar will reimburse the school district the cost to extend the builders' insurance if the firm doesn't meet that self-imposed deadline. Speelman said it would if that's what it takes.
Of course, the construction has been disruptive to the ultimate beneficiaries of the renovation: The students.
“I appreciate the work that’s being done,” student representative Grace Riek said. “I just want to go to high school. I don’t want to go to a construction zone, though.”
Northeastern's school board also discussed the district’s weapon policy, which was on the agenda for approval.
Board member Tiedra Marshall asked for clarity about how possession is defined when students go to and from schools.
“In terms of if the vehicle is coming on school property, that’s an issue,” said William Zee, the district’s solicitor, explaining if the vehicle doesn’t touch school property or anything school-related, then there's no issue.
Student representative Grace Riek asked for more clarification, asking if pepper spray kept in a student's glove compartment would lead to problems.
Zee explained: “You should be aware that you’re responsible for everything on the contents of your car or your person when you come into the school or attend any other school-related activities.”
These policies come from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and are used statewide.
“I think it boils down to the PA code and the totality of circumstances,” board president Mike Redding said, adding each case is different and the school resource officer understands the interpretations.
— Reach Meredith Willse at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @MeredithWillse.