CASD Approves Extending Geotechnical Services for High School Project

CLEARFIELD – The Clearfield Area School District Board of Directors approved extending its geotechnical services with CMT Labs for consulting and testing for the high school renovation and expansion project not to exceed $59,565 at Monday’s combined committee and board meeting.

The CMT Labs geotechnical services extension was approved by a 7-2 vote. Board members Dave Glass, Mary Anne Jackson, Phil Carr, Dr. Michael Spencer, Susan Mikesell, Larry Putt and Tim Morgan voted in favor. Morgan noted his vote was “reluctantly” yes.  Board members Rick Schickling and Jennifer Wallace opposed.

Superintendent Dr. Thomas B. Otto said the district is requiring extensive testing of CMT Labs. For example, when backfill is being done, the district is mandating that CMT Labs conduct testing every foot for the proper compaction. He said in the bid paperwork, CMT Labs estimated about 50 on-site visits, and they have currently made 74 on-site visits.

Otto said they have checked blacktop, cement, etc. and he said this has been recommended by Charles Knauff, the project’s construction administrator. Otto said the district had previously received two other bids for the geotechnical services with one being in the $40,000 range and another in the $50,000 range. He said Knauff believes it’s best to stick with CMT Labs for the remainder of the geotechnical testing rather than someone else coming in, in the middle of the high school project.

Knauff said an RFP (Request for Proposal) was put out for the geotechnical testing. He said CMT Labs’ bid was originally $30,956 and the lowest of the three bids. He said the highest was around $58,000, which is where the district will probably end up being.

Knauff said he couldn’t explain why the CMT Labs bid was so low. In their defense, he said it is difficult to estimate services of this nature, because of the extensive excavation that is involved, and this really can’t be determined based upon a project blueprint. He said with the numbers going to be exceeded, the district can either extend the contract or hire someone else.

“But at this point in time, it doesn’t make any sense time-wise with the weather and everything else involved to go out and solicit another bid or several bids when it’s something we already have,” said Knauff. “It makes sense to continue with the use of CMT.”

Knauff said with the current testing under way, CMT Labs puts one-foot of dirt in and then compacts it at which point they cannot continue until it meets that compaction level. He said the excavation on the foundation system is more extensive than any other that he’s seen due to the unsuitable soil conditions. He said typically you dig a ditch, put in your foundation and footers, pour your concrete and build your foundation walls from there. But in some places, he said they’re digging ditches that are 10 feet lower than the foundation and footer system. Then, once the concrete sets up, they’re putting the new foundation system on top of it.

“All of that is determined by the testing agency,” said Knauff.

He said there are expandable materials in the soil. When exposed to moisture or air, it has the tendency to cause foundation systems to heat. He said the testing agency must determine if this affects the foundation system and if so, how much further, it must dig.

Knauff said CMT Labs’ services are extensive, which is why it has exceeded the original amount allotted. He said to finish, it’s going to take another $30,000.

When asked, Knauff said that the three bidders gave an estimated cost based upon an estimated amount of visits and a dollar amount. He said CMT Labs’ current number of visits was based upon his direction and his interpretation of the project documents.

Morgan said his concern regarded the reaction of the other two companies that submitted bids. He said they could look at the present situation and say, ‘If I’d known that, I would have bidden here (lower) and added to it.’” When asked by Morgan, Knauff said there wasn’t any possibility of repercussions against the district. When asked for her interpretation, Solicitor Aimee Willett said she would have to go back and review the bid specifications.

“This isn’t uncommon. I’ve had this happen before on different occasions,” said Knauff. He said the architect put out an RFP, seeking bids and the bidders submitted estimates based upon their interpretation of what would be required of them to complete the geotechnical services.

When asked by Willett, Knauff said he believed CMT Labs’ bid was made in “good faith.” He said the next bidder was around $42,000, so the CMT Labs bid “wasn’t completely out of line.”  

When asked by Jackson if the district’s soil was abnormal at the high school, he said it was in some areas. Jackson said she believed the soil’s quality was the issue.

When asked by Glass, Knauff said if the board didn’t approve the CMT Labs extension, they would have to put it out for bid and delay the project at least one month.

Wallace asked if CMT Labs submitted a bid for a specified amount to complete specified work, why it couldn’t be held to that regardless of the soil’s quality. Willett said it appeared as though the way the RFP, bid and contract were written it was for a specified number of visits, which Knauff confirmed.

“This wasn’t a lump sum, as in, ‘this is what it’s going to take to do this job. This was a performance contract,’” he said. When asked by Morgan, Knauff said he didn’t expect CMT Labs to seek another extension after this one.

Again when asked by Otto, Knauff said he couldn’t foresee CMT Labs going any higher based upon the status of the testing. He said the most intensive geotechnical work within the blueprint of the building had been completed.

Carr asked Knauff to make sure a strong foundation was built at the high school. Glass said although they didn’t want to spend another $29,000, it was best they didn’t skip on it to which Knauff ensured there would be a solid foundation on the high school building.

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