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Much of the discussion at last Monday’s Washington County School Board meeting revolved around the construction of the new Washington County High School. Representatives from Ross Tarrant Architects and ZH Commissioning were on hand to enlighten the board on the project’s progress, as well as answer questions about when it will be completed.
Eric Steva, senior project manager at Ross Tarrant, let the board know right away that the project was making good time, despite weather delaying the pouring of asphalt.
“The best news is the painting has started,” he said. “In the gymnasium, kitchen and weight room, they’ve started with the finishing touches of what they call block filler. It’s starting to turn the corner, really, when all of that stuff starts going on.”
He said that even if there are delays, the construction company, Alliance Corporation, will have plenty of time to get the job done in time for the district to move into the new building over the summer.
“Right now, I think some time in April is what the schedule says. There’s a little bit of a chance that that might slide to May, especially if we’re going to push back the asphalt to spring. That will have no impact in terms of you taking over the building in August.
“I don’t think there’s any cause for alarm that this construction project will delay the start of school in any way,” he added. “Something catastrophic has to happen before it’ll impact the start of school.”
Steva said the asphalt delay is for the removal of dirt and rock in areas that have been affected by water runoff from heavy rains. He said moving forward with the laying of asphalt now would likely lead to patchwork repairs in the near future, and suggested that it’s better to make sure the job is done right from the start.
Board member Pat Clements informed Steva that the district was going to take advantage of the delay to address concerns that the front entrance may be too low at future meetings.
“Since this weather delay has occurred for the asphalt, we’re going to study the issue of the entrance a little more since the opportunity to improve that is there,” Clements said.
Steva said the roofing for the project is “99 percent finished” and that all of the brick work, except the piers in the building’s front lobby area, had been completed.
Landscaping has also started to show up on the new school’s site in recent months, getting a jumpstart on the spring. All of the windows except those in the front lobby have been installed and drywalling is in the near future, according to Steva. Mechanical, electrical and plumbing projects are continuing and have also avoided any major delays.
Concerns were raised after it was discovered that the electronic LED sign placed at the school’s entrance was installed above a city water line. Steva said the intention was originally to place the sign further up the entrance, but that the decision was made to put the sign closer to US-150. The City of Springfield offered an agreement for the sign to be there, with the school retaining responsibility if the sign sees any damage if the lines were to ever be under repair. He assured the board, however, that there would be much greater concern had the building been placed over existing lines, but that the likelihood of the LED sign ever causing an issue is very low.
One of the next steps in the near future could be the pouring of sidewalks, which Steva said would give the companies a chance to introduce representatives from the district to their new high school.
“Hopefully within a month or two, we’ll be able to take you on a tour of the building,” he said. “Right now, it’s a little muddy around the perimeter of the building, so with those sidewalks, it’ll be easier to take you into the building for some tours.”
Ideally, Steva said, those tours would take place some time in January.
When asked when the project is officially accepted as “finished,” he said issuing the construction company a punchlist of items to repair and moving furniture into the building will be the finishing touches.
“There’s a broken ceiling tile; there’s a light that’s got a bulb out; a door function doesn’t work. We’ll conduct a thorough check of everything like that and turn that back over to Alliance,” he said of the punchlist process.
Chris Zerhusen of ZH Commissioning was also on hand, discussing the progress of water and energy systems, and to let the board know about upcoming testing for energy efficiency.
He said testing is being done on everything from the heat pumps to the water system, and that the company recently witnessed an air duct pressure test and that everything was good to go.
Testing will be done to the air system and the water geothermal system at the end of the project, Zerhusen said. Also, a 20 mph wind will be run through the structure in a building pressure test, which will show the groups involved how well the building is sealed.
Zerhusen said he wanted to explain to someone from the district how all of the systems running throughout the school work, before ceilings are installed, and Washington County Superintendent Robin Cochran asked if it would be possible to have someone record that meeting. Zerhusen called it an “awesome idea.”
“At the end of the project, we’ll turn over a manual that says, ‘This is how you do X, Y, Z,’ but if you’re like me, you’d rather just watch a video and see, ‘OK, there’s the shut-off valve that needs to be shut off,’” he said.
WCHS Principal Paul Terrell asked Steva and Zerhusen if they’d be able to suggest areas of the building that are deemed safer in the event of a natural disaster, such as a tornado. The reps each agreed that that could be done, with Steva also suggesting that it would be a good idea to provide a walkthrough with local police and fire department members to familiarize them with the building.
Also on the agenda in regard to the new high school was opening conversation about what vendor to choose for supplying furniture for the new facility.
Danville Office Equipment, School Specialty, Kerr Office Group in Elizabethtown and Hurst Business Supply and Furniture Solutions in Lexington are the four companies that Judy Spalding, Washington County Schools financial officer, said the district has been in contact with. DOE was the lone company to ask for a rundown of what items the district wanted, while the other three said they will send someone to make that determination.
Cochran said she doesn’t think the district has enough people to be able to pinpoint every item the school will need. Spalding agreed, calling it “a monumental task.”
“I’m not sure we have the staff to do it, and I don’t think we have the expertise to fill that building and give it the look of what was intended,” Spalding said.
Though no final decision was made last week, Board Chair Patsy Lester added that it would be best to bring in someone who has worked on similar projects before.
“I think if you’ve got some professional people who can help you, I would say take advantage of that,” she said.
Mike Mattingly was in attendance regarding the mowing bid for the current Washington County Schools facilities, as well as the new site. Mattingly opted his mowing service out of its contract with the district in lieu of agreeing to a new one for 2014 and beyond.
He addressed the district’s concern that his prices were higher for the new site, which he attributed to the difficulties the new site presents, including cobblestone drainage ditches that they may have to entirely weedeat.
Mattingly was awarded the contract for the 106 acres he currently manages at school facilities, but the board decided to wait for the school project to continue to progress before making a decision on the new site.
Baseball and softball trip
A request by the WCHS baseball team and Commander Head Coach Derek Schuler to take a trip during spring break (March 29-April 5) to play in a tournament in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. was tabled at last month’s meeting, but was addressed this past week. Parents and coaches from the baseball and softball teams were in attendance, as Commanderette Head Coach Paul Coulter issued the same request for his team.
The coaches answered questions for the board, informing them that they plan to stay in three-bedroom condos with nine players and one chaperone per room, as they did on previous trips. Lester and Clements each reminded the coaches and parents of the task they’re taking on, but the board unanimously approved the requests.
“I just like to know that there is parental support for these trips, and it appears there is,” Clements said. “On behalf of the whole board, we want to make everyone aware, of course, of the great responsibility that you all take on when you do this.”
Cochran pointed out that the board needs to finalize a shutdown plan for winter break in the coming weeks, as it’s the first seasonal shutdown the district has done. School facilities will be closed on Dec. 20, opening back up on Jan. 2.
She said the district is hoping to work something out with community partners if coaches at the schools need to practice during that span. St.
Dominic School, River of Life Church and St. Catharine College were mentioned as possible resources for athletics, while the public library and SCC could be called upon for any meetings that need to be held.
All board members were in attendance. The next school board meeting is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 16 at North Washington School.