$400,000 in slip-ups irk city panel

$400,000 in slip-ups irk city panel

Source: http://www.myrecordjournal.com, April 11, 2014
By: Molly Callahan

Rep-resentatives from the architectural firm for the city’s ongoing high school projects told members of the School Building Committee Thursday they had made roughly $400,000 worth of errors in designs for the next phase of construction at Maloney High School, a bill the city is expected to foot.

Angela Cahill, project manager from architectural firm Fletcher-Thompson, Inc., said they’d discovered six steel errors last month in certain aspects of the design for the freshman academy at Maloney, or “Area M.”

That area, which will involve heavy renovations to an existing wing of the school, is the next phase of a $107 million construction project at the high school, a project expected to be completed by 2017.

“We’ll have to make sizeable steel changes in the next phase of construction; a ballpark estimate of which is $400,000,” Cahill said.

Before Whitney McNulty, the head of construction engineering for Fletcher Thompson, could outline those errors however, School Building Committee member Bruce Fontanella asked Cahill, “Is Fletcher-Thompson going to pick up the ticket for these errors that you made? Is there some time in the future that you’d pick up 100 percent of the cost?”

And though Cahill said that discussions about covering the costs of errors and omissions are handled closer to the end of a project, she ultimately answered: “At this time, no.”

The first of the six errors involves the need to move a retaining wall away from the building by 4 feet, and the associated steel connections also need to be changed.

The second involves the roof of the freshman academy. McNulty explained that part of the existing roof would be connected to a new roof, which is 3 feet higher. One existing steel support beam is bridging the gap between the two, which means that it’s 3 feet too short, and needs to be added to.

The third involves the omission of four “connection columns,” or support beams — two each on two floors of the renovated wing of the building.

The fourth involves six columns that were too small in the drawings to support the weight of the floors based on an analysis. Those need to be made larger.

The fifth involved an incorrect labeling of masonry, or outside walls, on the design. McNulty explained that they weren’t labeled as “sheer walls,” a label that necessitates steel connectors from the walls to the frame of the building. That still will need to be added.

Finally, the sixth is an error closer to the auditorium. Essentially, at that part of the high school, builders will be extending the roof, and architects neglected to add an additional support column for that extension.

“I have little to no confidence with your designs,” Fontanella said. “These are major mistakes that shouldn’t have been made. It’s not like you missed an inspection on the pool. These should not have been missed.”

McNulty said that the errors resulted from a single structural engineer who drew up the designs in the area in question.

“I’m personally double-checking everything she did, though the rest of the areas that she worked on are much less complicated than this one,” McNulty said.

Committee member John Benigni asked, “Is it your policy that these plans don’t get a second set of eyes to begin with? Is that your policy on a project of this magnitude?”

Norm Benjamin, a project manager for Arcadis — the program manager working on behalf of the city — said that the plans pass through an “independent third party as well.”

Committee members asked McNulty if he had finished double-checking plans for the rest of the project.

Cahill answered, “We’re back-checking the area, we’re going to double-check everything and get back to you.”

“I’m annoyed that there hasn’t been a thorough review of the whole plan,” Benigni said. “Shame on you for not having that. I can get over a mistake, but I need to know there won’t be another one that we’ll get another $400,000 waxing for.”

And though Fletcher-Thompson representatives took full responsibility for making the errors, it’s unlikely that they’ll absorb the full cost of those errors.

Cahill said that the company has “errors and oversight” insurance, but that they “don’t pick up 100 percent of errors and omissions on projects.”

Michael S. Mercinek, CFO at Fletcher-Thompson, told the committee, “You have the right to put the claim in. You can do it now, or you can do it at the end of the project, but our insurance agent won’t take any action until the end of the project, so that he can look at all potential claims at once.”

Fontanella made a motion that any further discussions of the specifics of filing that claim, and to what extent Fletcher-Thompson is responsible for covering the costs, be moved to a future executive session.

More concrete figures for the cost of the errors will be presented as change orders at a coming meeting of the School Building Committee. In the meantime, Cahill said that the errors likely would set back construction by “a week or two.”

Committee member Keith Gordon said however, “The ‘Reader’s Digest’ version is that somebody screwed up, and now you want the city to pick up the tab. I’m glad you’re giving us some notice, but I’ll tell you that if it’s not the city’s fault, we should not be paying for it.”

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