Issues with CCHS construction could delay opening

Allen WorrellEditor

October 17, 2012

Work to correct pre-cast columns rejected by the architect in charge of Phase III renovations at Carroll County High School could delay the opening of the new portion of the high school by up to two months.

Dennis Cole, Clerk of the Works for the Phase III renovations of CCHS and Carroll County Intermediate School, informed the Carroll County Board of Supervisors on Oct. 9 that the architect has written a letter to general contractor New Atlantic Contracting rejecting the pre-cast columns that house the new glass-front entrance of the high school. That entrance also will house the new administration area on the lower level as well as the new library/media center upstairs.

“We have let them know and we are waiting on their response,” Cole told the supervisors. “If they took them down, we are talking about some major work. It will be up to the school system if they want to fix the columns.”

Cole said the contractor had made “great strides” over the previous two weeks in correcting aesthetic issues with the pre-cast columns. Unless you are versed in construction, you probably wouldn’t be able to see the problems, Cole noted. But the architect has rejected the columns.

“The architect has the final decision. He is responsible for the design and intent of the drawings. His interpretation is the first and last interpretation of the drawings,” Cole told The Carroll News. “And typically what will happen, an architect will design a building and in that design he’ll show his intent. In this case, his intent is to show six columns erected to have an aesthetic appeal that compliments the front entry. It has been his decision that the columns as erected don’t provide that aesthetic appeal or compliment the front-entry area.”

As far as overall construction at CCHS, Cole said the high school is 85 percent complete with $5.87 million of work completed of the allotted $6.795 million.

“We are getting real close to the end of the job. We have wanted to finish around December 15 and that still looks like the time,” Cole told the board. “Everything looks good except the columns.”

Supervisor Phil McCraw wanted to know if the completion date would be delayed if the columns do have to come down. Cole said it would delay occupancy of the building.

“They are looking at right after winter break, but if the decision is made to take the columns all the way down and recast them and reinstall them, there is about a six-to-eight week time frame in there to get that work done,” Cole told The Carroll News. “Obviously you can’t occupy the building with the columns not there.”

McCraw wanted to know what would be the odds of that happening. Cole said the contractor has done a great job of putting the columns back to where they need to be. But with a letter in hand from the architect, that takes precedence over everything.

“He is the person that makes the final decision on the intent of the drawing. Obviously, the owner who pays the architect and the contractor is the last resort, the last person who makes that decision, and they can choose to override the architect’s letter if they feel like it meets the needs of the school,” Cole said. “They can do that, but I don’t know if it would be a wise decision for the school board to go against the design team. It’s more aesthetic than structural. This is a line item that is about $35,000. It’s big, but not insurmountable.”

Board of Supervisors’ Chairman Sam Dickson pointed out the following day at the construction site that any additional work would come out of the pocket of the contractor, and not out of the county’s pocket.

Supervisor David Hutchins asked Cole if there was a way the columns could be fixed without taking them down entirely. He also asked Cole to keep the board informed of what takes place with the columns.

“I think at no time should we accept anything less than our expectations,” Cole said. “I think they need to be replaced. Two weeks ago it would have been a no-brainer. Since then they have done a great job, but there are some things that can’t be corrected.”

At the construction site Oct. 10, on-site supervisor Jeff Johnson said New Atlantic has already sunk tens of thousands of dollars into correcting the columns. He felt as if the columns were more than up to par. Cole told The Carroll News that he felt bad for New Atlantic Contracting because the work done on the columns was done by a subcontractor.

“Their people told them they could make this right during the erection of these columns and it didn’t happen,” Cole said. “Though New Atlantic didn’t do the work, they listened to a subcontractor who told them they could fix it, and obviously they are having issues with it.”