Archive for Thursday, December 14, 2006

Change orders frustrate board

December 14, 2006

Lansing School Board members are expressing frustration after learning of potential cost increases for the new Lansing Elementary School on West Mary Street and Lansing High School auditorium addition.

During its monthly board meeting Monday, Dec. 11, the board heard a construction update from architect Jon Plumer, of Wilson & Co., the architectural firm for the $23.6 million voter-approved bond referendum projects.

Plumer presented a list of six proposed change orders for the projects that could increase the project's approved contract bid with McPherson Contractors of $23,114,300 by nearly $25,000.

The bulk of the increase relates to water and sewer lines at both sites.

At the LES site, sanitary sewer and creek crossing requirements by the city of Lansing and Lan-Del Water District could increase the project's cost by more than $8,600.

Post-bid surprises

Plumer told board members he learned of the mandates after the bid was awarded in August.

Several board members pressed Plumer to explain why the changes weren't made before the project was submitted for bid.

Plumer told the board Wilson & Co. had to submit documents for review to five government agencies, and typically, the firm doesn't receive all recommendations from the required agencies by the time bids are approved.

Plumer said Lan-Del's configuration changes on the water main at the LES site came after the bid opening and that the school district and Lan-Del would share the cost of changing the water line from 8-inch PVC to 12-inch steel and extending the water main.

Total cost of the changes won't be known until Lan-Del opens bids for the project Dec. 20.

Board president Shelly Gowdy said she and district officials had attended a recent Lan-Del meeting and spoke with Lan-Del staff about the situation.

"Lan-Del officials said they had visited with your people all along about this policy," Gowdy said. "That was a question obviously that I had, again, coming back to responsibility."

At the high school site, removal of a sanitary sewer line and installation of a concrete manhole also could add $9,364 to the project cost. And an existing water line at the new parking lot at LHS also was relocated, increasing the cost by $5,775.

Gowdy asked why the district should have to pay to move the water line because Dale Bohannon, the district's director of maintenance and capital improvement, had told Wilson & Co. the utilities were present.

"Wilson & Co. will step to the plate when we make errors and omissions," Plumer said. "We will pay for the difference by deducting that from our salary."

Eye on expenses

Halfway through the hourlong discussion, Gowdy asked Plumer if the board might expect any more surprises.

"I understand, please believe me, there are going to be change orders on this project," she said, "but some of these things, in my opinion, should have been taken care of prior to, because now it's costing us more money, which is us, the taxpayers."

Plumer told the board he understood its frustration.

"I can't promise anything, because obviously, there are some closed doors still : until we get those opened," he said.

Gowdy asked Plumer to elaborate on those areas, adding McPherson has not obtained a permanent building permit for the projects.

Board member Richard Whitlow asked when the issue would reach a critical point.

"If there is no building permit when iron is ready to go up, what happens?" Whitlow asked, adding that a contractor delay could mean a delay in opening the new school.

Whitlow said some board members think "lack of foresight" in planning would jeopardize that goal and increase the project's costs.

"I just want to hear that when we're ready to open school in the spring, it's going to be ready to open up," he said. "However that happens, it's gonna be ready to open."

Plumer told the board Wilson & Co. would do everything it could to make that happen, but that McPherson needed to secure a permanent building permit to keep the project on schedule.

Superintendent Randal Bagby, who participates in weekly construction meetings about the projects, said he would continue discussions with Wilson & Co., to negotiate project costs.

"The Wilson & Co. fees of six percent of the total construction costs : there's about $345,000 that has not been paid," Bagby said, adding the sum had been a topic of discussion with Mortimer.

The board voted 6-0, with Craig Gephart absent, to accept five of the six proposed change orders and authorized Bagby to continue financial negotiations with Wilson & Co.

The board did not vote on the change order related to the water configuration changes by Lan-Del at the LES site.

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