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School Board to Consider Middle School Change Orders
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            The Upper Perkiomen School Board will consider four change orders related to the construction of its new middle school during Thursday's public meeting.  Approval of the orders would allow the district to lock in a completion date for the facility in time for the 2019-20 school year.

            During Tuesday's Facilities Committee meeting, the construction manager overseeing the work asked the members to recommend their approval. Melanie Cunningham, the committee chair, agreed.

            Two of the change orders, submitted by the project's four main contractors, include costs related to the board decision to pause the project in December. All four include a 22-day increase in the contract time to construct the building.  M. Arif Fazil, of D'Huy Engineering Inc., based in Bethlehem, told the committee that by approving the change orders, the board would lock in the completion date for August 2019.

            According to Fazil, the contractors are not contractually obligated to complete the school for sixth, seventh and eighth graders by a certain deadline. The board's decision to pause the program eliminated the initial deadline, according to Superintendent Alexis McGloin.

            If approved, the change order would cost the district $203,261. Also, it would legally require the contractors to provide substantial completion of the classroom area by Aug. 5, 2019 and the common area by Aug. 25, 2019, according to Fazil. The current contract does not include any contingencies allowing for additional construction tine, according to Robert J. Breslin, founder of the Allentown architectural firm that designed the school.

            "The issues here have nothing to do with cost," he said. "This has to do with getting back on schedule. This project is at risk, in my opinion."

            The money would be paid out of a contingency account related to the construction project, according to board President Kerry Drake, an ex-officio member of the committee. He said that accounts for 0.4 percent of the total project budget.

            The change orders call for paying Boro Developers, Inc., the general contractor, $178,374.53 and Albarell Electric, Inc., the electrical contractor, $24,887. The costs are directly related to their expenses created by the district's "start/stop" of the middle school, according to Solicitor Justin O'Donoghue. District officials said during the meeting that they initially estimated those expenses at approximately $250,000.

            Fazil told the members he negotiated those costs to the best of his ability. The construction manager said the contractor's costs are legitimate, and that the agreement allows all parties to reexamine the conditions in November.  "I got the contractors to agree," he said. "I need you to agree."

            According to Fazil, the contract will allow construction crews to make up for lost time. He said it is 22 days behind schedule, estimating that 10 days had been lost since December to inclement weather.

            In order to make sure the work is completed in time for the 2019-20 school year, the construction manager suggested that the district officials would have to "pray for good weather," implement some strategic sequencing on the worksite, consider the possibility of approving limited overtime for crews and request permission from Upper Hanover township officials to allow work on certain Saturdays. McGloin said district officials would approach township officials for a zoning variance to work on the project under certain circumstances.

            "We appeared before the supervisors before on this issue, and there didn't appear to be a lot of support," she said. "We're going to try again."





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