South aerial

Work at the South Middle School project site has been progressing despite having soil issues involving three sinkholes. The most recent one was found away from the construction area, and plans are to plug it using fill material taken from the current campus buildings that are to be razed when replaced by the new structures.

North’s funds could be used

Although sinkholes and related problems have expended all but $80,000 of the new South Middle School’s $690,000 contingency fund, remaining incident funds from the North project could be used to pay the difference if the earmarked money is expended.

Construction Adviser Gary Clardy told the County Commission on Sept. 16 that South has had an additional sinkhole problem in an area closer to a water tower that is not critical to the construction site. He said the work can be put on the back burner so that other more pressing sections can be addressed.

Commissioner Helen Stapleton asked Clardy if unused funds for North could be spent on the South project if the contingency funds are all used up.

Clardy replied that they could if it comes down to that. He added that North still has $500,000 of its $690,000 contingency money remaining.

Each school had $690,000 set aside to take care of problems discovered as the projects progress.

In addition to the most recent sinkhole, South has had two other sinkholes that have had to be filled in.

Those sinkholes were taken care of, expending about $500,000 of South’s contingency money.

Clardy had said that if additional sinkholes were discovered at the South site, the construction budget could be adjusted without any change orders to take care of them because the money is in the budget through the alternate work line items.

The first sinkhole at South was discovered near an old tennis-court area which was taken care of using rock as fill material.

The second one was found where a parking lot area will be located and extended underground more than 30 feet.

Clardy said recently that a combination of boulder material, finer surge stone and 125 yards of concrete, along with clay material, was used to plug and level the larger sinkhole to where it should not present any other problems. He added that other steps are being taken to ensure the new South Middle School will reside on solid ground.

“We’d be in excellent shape if we hadn’t had the sinkholes, but all we can do is fix it and move,” Clardy told the commission.

He said the projects are going smoothly and are ahead of schedule with the new building structures. However, he said upgrading the existing gyms is slightly behind schedule.

He updated the Finance Committee earlier this month about the middle school projects’ status.

Clardy said the two middle school projects have built-in head room to ensure they will be completed within their combined $48 million budgeted amount.

Franklin County Mayor David Alexander, a Finance Committee member, was adamant about the outcome.

“It can’t exceed $48 million,” he said.

“It won’t,” Clardy replied.

Commissioner David Eldridge, a committee member, asked about what would happen if a problem were to occur requiring change orders to the projects.

Clardy referred to the alternate work that was included in the bid packages. He said they are additional project items and would require no change orders to do them because the money to provide them is already in the budget.

He added the some of the alternate items could be excluded to free up money for any additional work that may surface.

North has an existing wing and a gym that are to be upgraded, which comprised most of the alternate work totals.

Bids were submitted for 10 alternate projects at North and four at South to upgrade its gymnasium and make security upgrades.

Robert S. Biscan & Co. from the city of Franklin was selected by the Board of Education to do the work at North while SouthLand Construction Inc. of Brentwood was awarded the contract for the South project.

Biscan turned in a $19.6 million base bid quote for North with another $658,000 in alternate work, setting its total at $20.258 million.

SouthLand turned in a $19.98 million quote for the base work at South, plus another $349,700 in alternate work, setting its total at $20.329 million.

Clardy said recently that although the low bids total $40.588 million, additional costs have been factored in.

He said the design fees added $1.8 million to the cost, plus $2 million has been budgeted for each school to provide technology upgrades.

Clardy said some leeway was also planned in case the contractors ran into any issues with soil which could cost additional money to make corrective adjustments to.