Mars school board OKs payments for building

October 15, 2020 Cranberry Local News

The Mars Area Middle School project may be down to change orders, but they're costing more than nickels and dimes.

Members of the school board Tuesday night heard an update from Jon Thomas, co-founder of the construction company Thomas & Williamson Program Management of Pittsburgh.

Citing a list of construction tasks, Thomas told the board many of them were completed in the spring under the direction of John Hays, general manager of construction for Thomas & Williamson. Hays died in July.

“These were items that John was working on,” Thomas said. “(He) was waiting from some validation to come in.”

Among the change orders presented Tuesday night were about $7,136 to the general contractor for cleaning work conducted this spring; $5,204 in heating and lighting maintenance; and $4,946 in electrical repairs following wall demolition.

Thomas also presented $14,666 in changes to the fire alarm system.

“Were these items that were requested?” asked Anthony DePretis, a board member. “Or ... along the way, (Thomas & Williamson) just decided that, 'This needs to be done?'”

Thomas said the change orders were a “mixed bag.”

According to Thomas, some of the orders compensated for work that wasn't shown on the project drawings, such as installing additional circuits. Other orders addressed adjustments made along the way.

Thomas said normally a district approves its superintendent to be the deciding authority up to a certain point in the renovation process.

But in the end, the board carries the most weight.

“The ultimate (voice) is really you,” Thomas told the board.

Thomas acknowledged some of the electrical work done via change orders should have been included in the original electrical contracting bid. Still, he said it's all work that needed to be done.

Thomas said his company always tries to work within a 5% contingency net for the overall project.

“On this one, I think the contingency was a little bit lower,” Thomas said. “You're still in the contingency standard.”

The lower rate allows for an expected credit on roof work to be incorporated into the contingency fund, according to Thomas.

The district had an initial basic contingency of $329,000, Thomas said. An additional $44,479 was brought before the board Tuesday.

Thomas said that brings the district to roughly $133,652 over budget.

By crediting an anticipated remaining balance of almost $44,184 in soft costs, Thomas told the board the overrun could be reduced to about $89,467.

“Which is .006%,” Thomas said. “So, it's pretty good.”

The board unanimously approved the $44,479 in change orders.

The board also approved a $99,500 bid recommendation from Schultz Installation for HVAC monitoring and preventative maintenance from Oct. 15 through June 30, 2024. Board members Megan Lenz and Christine Valenta voted against the motion.

Project workers are now down to details, according to Thomas, such as bulletin board installation. Thomas said he hopes Tuesday night marked the last of the change orders.

Samantha Beal

Samantha Beal