CLEARFIELD – The Clearfield Area School District Board of Directors isn’t happy with its contractors for the renovation and expansion at the Clearfield Area High School, while the $36 million project is behind schedule.
As of the end of June, the contractors are 52 weeks into the project, which equates to 57 percent of the project’s contract time. The district’s payment has totaled $14,852,325, or 48 percent, of the project’s value, reported Charles Knauff, construction administrator.
“The contractors came in pretty hard but not as hard and not as aggressive as they should have been,” he said. “They’re continuing to fall behind schedule.”
Knauff met with the contractors Monday, reiterating it’s necessary for them to “start taking a better, more realistic approach” to get the work completed. He also had them commit to completion dates.
“Today (July 15) is the halfway point for the summer construction work,” said Knauff. “There’s a lot to do between now and the start of school. I’ll continue to monitor it and report back to you.”
Following his report, board President Mary Anne Jackson asked if they would be able to walk into the high school for the start of the upcoming year. Knauff explained that they didn’t have any other choice but to.
Board member Larry Putt then asked how the contractors ever planned to catch up if they were so far behind. Knauff said the contractors had committed to working double shifts from this point on. However, he said, “We’ll see if it happens or not, because that remains to be seen.”
Knauff anticipated they would have to make concessions between what is supposed to be completed and what will actually be completed before the start of school. He said he would have a better idea of where the high school project stands on Aug. 1; however, he declined to make any guarantees.
“In my opinion, it will not even be close,” he said. “But we should be far enough along to gain a temporary occupancy permit. Once we have that, we can start school.”
Putt asked when contractors intended to start a second shift at the high school. Knauff said the general contractor needed to confer with his sub-contractors. He said prime contractors intended to follow suit with the general contractor.
Knauff said he’d have a better idea of the general contractor’s plans on Thursday or Friday of this week. He said the problem lies mostly with the congestion at the high school. He said if they have too much manpower, they just bump into each other, which is why they should work two shifts.
Board member Gail Ralston pointed out the contractors were given a deadline and asked about the consequences for failure to meet it. Knauff said that depended on how the district wanted to handle it.
Knauff said the district could assess liquidated damages for costs incurred as the result of the contractors’ delays. Or, he said it could withhold money until work is completed. Solicitor Aimee Willett said she’d spoken with J. Greer Hayden, the district’s architect of HHSDR Architects/Engineers of Sharon, and they planned to further discuss the matter later this week.
Board members asked how they could show they weren’t pleased with the contractors. Superintendent Terry Struble said they’d asked the contractors earlier Monday how they planned to rectify the situation, and they responded by saying, they’d try to add hours, men and shifts.
“It comes down to discussions between our solicitor and architect,” said Struble. “. . . It comes down to what tools we have available that don’t violate our end of the contract but gets them to move faster to complete the work.”
Board member Jennifer Wallace asked Knauff if he was confident that the contractors would add shifts. Knauff said they would in order to pacify the situation; however, he didn’t believe they’d come through with all of the scheduled work completed by the start of school.
Knauff said the general contractor was working five, 10-hour days; the other tradespeople, he said, such as those who are in electrical and plumbing, were working five, eight-hour days.
“It was a massive undertaking,” said Knauff of the high school project. “But they knew that when they agreed to the contract.”
Board members discussed the possibility of having a special meeting to address how to handle the matter before its regular meeting in August. Jackson said if one was necessary, it should be held at the high school.
Struble said he, Knauff and Principal Tim Janocko plan to meet every Tuesday to evaluate and discuss the progress of the high school project. Struble said he’d contact Jackson if he felt it was necessary to call a special meeting.