South Middle School aerial

The first change order for the combined middle school projects is on its way after sinkholes and other issues at South expended its $690,000 contingency fund.

However, Construction Adviser Gary Clardy told the School Board on Nov. 11 that North Middle School’s contingency fund has money remaining that can be used at South, so the projects shouldn’t exceed their combined budgeted amount.

Clardy said the two middle school projects have built-in head room to ensure they will be completed within their combined $48 million budgeted figure, but a change order will be drafted to reflect that North’s contingency money will be going toward the South project.

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

Clardy said later that by the time the two schools are completed and ready to accommodate students for the 2020-21 academic year, both schools’ contingency funds will probably be expended.

He added that plans were made where adjustments can be done with money taken from other line items to finish any remaining work and still stay within budget.

One such cost-saving measure, at the direction of school administrators, was to hold off on opening the North and South gyms prior to when the academic structures are ready to accommodate students, Clardy said.

Initial plans were to have the gyms ready enough by mid-October to accommodate athletic matchups, but the arduous refurbishment process pushed the expected completion time into January 2020.

Clardy said water lines would have had to be extended to install temporary sprinkler infrastructure to meet fire-safety codes.

He added that access into the gyms also would have presented fire-safety issues. However, with the North and South basketball campaigns already at their midway point, school administrators agreed not to bother with trying to open the gyms before the academic facilities are finished, he said.

Clardy said the move saved up to an estimated $200,000 that can be used in other needed areas to finish the projects.

He said walls at both facilities have gone up and roof work is expected to start soon so that the buildings can be enclosed to allow interior work to progress.

While the North project had gone more according to plans, the South project has been plagued by sinkholes.

Clardy said a total of four sinkhole/questionable-soil areas were found at the South site

Two of the sinkholes were filled in, expending about $500,000 of South’s contingency money.

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 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.

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.

Clardy said that the third sinkhole can probably be filled with material from the old South campus buildings after they are razed. He added that using the remaining material will save money in the project’s overall cost.

He said another questionable area was discovered at the new building’s footprint and will be corrected using grout material that will fill the area and mushroom out to form a pylon-type support structure.

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