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Oil Spill Under Former Taconic Add Unforeseen Cost To Project
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
01:10AM / Tuesday, April 30, 2019
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The former high school is just piles of concrete now.


The School Building Needs Commission met in the new high school for the first time.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — An oil spill has led to contractors to dip more into the contingency fund for the new Taconic High School.
 
Jim Moran, project manager with Skanska USA, said a slab under the boiler room was removed during the demolition of the original school, unveiling an oil spill contaminating the soil. The land there had to be remediated and rain had poured in requiring treatment.
 
"The good news is that the project remains on budget. But we had some challenges over the winter and spring, unforeseeable conditions that cost money that we didn't anticipate," Moran said.
 
"The big one we just finished up Friday when we unearthed the slab for the boiler room, there was an oil spill underneath it. That had to be remediated."
 
Moran said the clean up is costing an unanticipated $50,000. It becomes the second contamination issue the construction project has unearthed. When workers began digging for the site of the new school, a significant amount of old construction material was found buried in the ground. That cost an estimated $500,000 additional cost to remediate.
 
The project had included about a $2.5 million in its budget for contingency to handle such issues as that. But that is getting chipped away as time goes on. Moran said another $50,000 may have to come out of contingency as well because of prices for furniture, fixtures, and equipment for the horticulture building and the auto shop.
 
Moran said $50,000 was estimated for those fixtures but not all of the items were included in the bidders. That is requiring the contractors to track down prices and purchases for a number of pieces through state contract. Moran said right now it is estimated that the entire slate of equipment will cost slightly more than $100,000.
 
"We had a lot of items that were bid on by the contractors," Moran said. "Our consultant has plugged in numbers for what we believe the cost of those missing items are and when you add them all up, it is double the budget."
 
Moran said Graybar and Carr Hardware both submitted bids — the second time they were put to bid — and Graybar's bid was non-conforming and had to be eliminated. Carr Hardware had bid on only some of the items needed but not all. Moran said the city can accept the Carr Hardware bids but will still need to shop around to find the rest of the material.
 
"It is going to take a lot of work to individually chase each price," Moran said.
 
Purchasing Agent Colleen Hunter-Mullett said there is about $500,000 remaining in contingency to cover the additional needs. But, the project still isn't completed.
 
"I am cautiously optimistic that we will have some left," she said.
 
Gilane Building Co.'s Dave DeForest said the entire project will be done later this year. The old school has been demolished and all that is left are piles of crushed concrete. Maxymilian, which was subcontracted to grade the site of the former school for future soccer and lacrosse fields and parking lot, has been somewhat hindered by the rain. 
 
DeForest said a space directly across the street has been graded to become a parking lot, likely for teachers. That will allow the teacher spaces now to be used by students who are being asked to park in the former shop lot on the far south end of the property and work can shift to there.
 
He said the first paving coast is expected Friday, depending on weather. Meanwhile, concrete for the horticulture building is ongoing.
 
"We are constantly watching the weather for both the concrete pouring and the paving," DeForest said. 
 
The new sports fields won't be ready for use for some time. DeForest said Maxymilian is trying to plant grass as it moves along to capitalize on this growing season. He hopes all of the grass is planted by the end of July. It takes two seasons of growing before they can be used so DeForest estimates that they will be ready in 2020.
 
Superintendent Jason McCandless, however, isn't so optimistic. He said he's eyeing 2021 as the first season for those fields to ensure the ground can handle the usage.
 
The horticulture and greenhouse buildings are moving along but were held back a bit because of the rain as well. DeForest said the construction company put off doing concrete work to avoiding having to heat it and instead wait for the weather to break. Meanwhile, the mechanical work is underway and eventually the finishes. He hopes to have that done in June.
 
Meanwhile, in the current Taconic the company is  picking through the last pieces. DeForest said the paint booth for auto body is still be programmed to align with the fire alarm system and he expects that to be done in early May. Meanwhile, there is some work booths to be completed  in the electrical shop that again he hopes to be done in May. The security system is being fine tuned and administration will be trained more in depth in the system in May — the staff has some level of training on it but DeForest said there is even more the system can do the staff will learn.
 
Additionally, a company working for the Massachusetts School Building Authority has to re-test the air conditioning system during the summer. As those pieces move along, DeForest said the group is working through some 5,390 "punchlist" items. He said the group is down to the last 79.
 
DeForest said none of those pieces had held up any education taking place in those rooms. McCandless added that the only educational hold up was that in the fall the Shakespeare and Co. production of Hamlet was moved to Barrington Stage while  workers finished the lighting in the auditorium.
 
"We've been really pleased with the way this place has served kids and the teachers," McCandless said.
 
The $120.8 million new school broke ground in 2016 and opened in the fall of 2018 for its first class of students. Next year, the school is expected to have some 900 students attending the school with 400 of them being in vocational programs. McCandless said the demand for the vocational programs, specifically electrical, has been high and the district is ramping up those programs up — including adding new ones next year — quicker than originally anticipated.
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