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MHS roof awaits final inspection

by Larry S. Chowning

The Middlesex High School roof project is “essentially” complete, reported school superintendent Rusty Fairheart at the school board meeting on July 14.

Still remaining is a final inspection by officials from the roof manufacturer to make sure products used on the roof were properly installed for warranty purposes, said Fairheart.

Fairheart also reported that school officials are still seeking financial reimbursement from the engineers for alleged slope errors in the roof. When work was started, an undetected slope calculation error resulted in delays and required the county to purchase more materials for the roof, which were not included in the original bid and contract.

The school board had to go back to the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors and request $67,281 to pay for the extra materials.

The extra funds were used to purchase additional materials to increase the pitch of the roof. Mark Widener, the project clerk of the works, discovered during construction that a 1 1/2-inch pitch as designed was not enough to force water off the roof. The pitch had to be increased.

The school board has been seeking $45,285 in reimbursement for the extra materials from PSI, the roof engineering firm that designed the roof. However, efforts to obtain these funds have been fruitless.

PSI officials contend they are not at fault. “PSI disagrees with your conclusion. The additional costs detailed in your letter are not the result of design errors attributed to PSI,” said PSI in a recent letter.

PSI also claims that all work the company did on the project was based on industry standards.

In a letter to PSI dated June 9, Fairheart wrote, “Although I suspect due diligence in design has been defined through the process of litigation and arbitration . . .  I can assure you that customer expectations are far and away not in alignment or agreement with what you have indicated is the industry standard.

“I find it interesting that such a divergence exists,” wrote Fairheart.  “One would think that industry expectations would be more closely aligned with customer expectations, since the industry works for the customer (building owners as a group).”

PSI responded in a letter on June 30, “We believe that PSI’s performance during the design phase was appropriate and met or exceeded reasonable expectations for the project as well as the standard of care for the industry.”

School officials have not made a final payment to PSI, and in its June 30 letter PSI agreed as a compromise to “waive any remaining monies due to PSI on the project for our design work.”

Fairheart was not optimistic that the school system would get any additional funds from PSI because the contract between the school system and PSI did not have an arbitration clause.

“I wonder if it would be cost effective to take this matter to court?” asked school board member James Goforth.

“Probably not,” responded Fairheart. “It would probably cost more than we would get back from it.”

County officials know firsthand about such situations. With the new courthouse project, the county accepted a settlement from the courthouse architects rather than go through an expensive court battle, noted Fairheart.

School board member Beth Hurd said the amount of extra money spent on the project ($67,281) was about 10 percent of the total project cost.  “It’s a lot of money, but not in the scope of the project,” she said.

The total cost of the project was supposed to be $657,653.

posted 08.01.2008

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