Board hears of roof problems at new Oakville Elementary School

By Mike Anthony

As the Mehlville School District ends its involvement with the McCarthy Construction Co., the most significant issue to be resolved involves roof problems at the newly constructed Oakville Elementary School, a district administrator told the Board of Education.

The McCarthy Construction Co. has served as construction manager for Proposition P since the inception of the districtwide building improvement program, but its formal involvement ended Oct. 31 and the school district is “making the transition from McCarthy-managed projects to the Northstar-managed projects,” Randy Charles, assistant superintendent for finance, told the board last week.

The board hired the Northstar Management Co. earlier this fall to oversee the remaining Proposition P projects, including the construction of a new early childhood center and renovations at Forder, Hagemann and Rogers elementary schools.

Northstar will serve as the district’s owner/agent to provide construction management services for a maximum guaranteed price of $112,940. Employing McCarthy for the duration of the implementation of Proposition P would cost the district nearly $1 million.

Voters in November 2000 approved Proposition P, a nearly $68.4 million bond issue funded by a 49-cent tax-rate increase. However, the Board of Education voted Nov. 3 to approve a revised Proposition P budget totaling $88,927,440.

A brand-new Oakville Elementary School at 2911 Yaeger Road welcomed pupils Sept. 2 for the first day of classes for the 2004-2005 school year. The new Oakville Elementary School was built on the same property as the previous Oakville Elementary, which was razed after the 2002-2003 school year. Current projections place the total cost of the new school at $8,046,935.

At the Nov. 18 board meeting, Charles, who also serves as the district’s chief financial officer, discussed the transition from McCarthy-managed projects to Northstar-managed projects. District officials had met that morning with representatives of Dickinson Hussman Architects and McCarthy and planned to meet again Tuesday, Nov. 23.

At one point, Charles said, “… As far as specific issues, the most significant issue I think that we’re still working with McCarthy, one, Oakville Elementary. We have an issue where the roof that was installed at Oakville Elementary does not meet the specifications of the architect nor does it meet the expectations of the Mehlville School District. The contractor is aware of that, is in the process of developing a response, but one thing that is clear, it is an issue that the contractor is responsible for, both in terms of performing the corrected work and bearing the financial responsibility will be on the shoulders of the contractor …”

In response to a question from board member Rita Diekemper, Charles said, “… The contract we signed with McCarthy required the final fee payment be made last month and we have one final payment for the agreed-upon reimbursables that’s on my desk right now. It’s being processed. When we receive that check, if the board so desires, we can hold that. We probably won’t have that check back from the trustee until first week of December.”

Diekemper said, “I guess I want to make sure that any punch-list items, particularly some of the projects that like, for example, at Oakville High School, that there’s some method that we have of assuring that that work is done properly even if it means that we have to go out and hire someone else to complete that work so that it’s done properly and that the district not bear the financial burden of that.”

Charles said, “Right. That was one of the major points of discussion during our meeting today and we’ll continue that.”

Diekemper said, “… That should be clear and that’s part of their job is to make sure that those projects are completed …”

Charles said, “… The statement I made to Mr. (John) Heidbreder (of McCarthy) this morning was that we would expect McCarthy to perform those duties that would have been reasonable — that anyone would have reasonably expected to have been completed by the end of this month and he agreed with that statement. So we’ll work out of the details …”

Diekemper continued, “… At Oakville Elementary, are those shingle problems or is that a structural problem in the roof?”

“It’s a combination of issues,” Charles replied, noting the problem first surfaced when “nail pops” were discovered.

“The nails that were holding down the plywood decking were beginning to pop out and you could see them even from underneath, coming out from underneath the shingles,” he explained. “It’s a combination of things. We did realize that there was a structural bracing between the rafters that had been omitted. It doesn’t — it’s not going to compromise the structural integrity of that roof in the short term, but over a period of time it could allow for shifting of the roof, which will, as I said, over a period of time allow leaks to generate.

“So that has to be addressed,” Charles continued. “Also, some of the plywood decking was not properly attached to the rafters. The wrong nails were used. That has to be addressed. And thirdly, even when the shingles were installed, they were not overlapped sufficiently … In some areas, the nails holding the shingles in place actually are exposed. Again, that’s a potential for a leak. So as I said, the contractor is not disputing the fact that these are problems that need to be addressed. They obviously have insurance issues that they have to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s because they’re working with a subcontractor and then they have their own bonding company. So they have a process that they have to go through.

“They were supposed to have a report to us by now. They do not. I’ve directed McCarthy to compose a default letter to issue to the contractor first thing tomorrow morning (Nov. 19) … I believe they have 24 hours to respond as to how

they’re going to cure that default,” he said. “If they do not do so, then we have several options. We can ask the surety to step in and have the work performed or, at our option, we can have the work performed and back charge that against the contract. And we’re still holding, I believe it’s $105,000 of the contractor’s money.”

Diekemper asked, “Would that be enough to cover the work?”

Charles said, “In the estimate of our architects, they say that should be more than enough.”

Asked by Diekemper who is going to supervise the work, Charles replied, “That’s a discussion that we need to have Tuesday (Nov. 23). I have, you know, my own opinion of who needs to do that … It’s going to get into a discussion of what should happen and what we can legally enforce. It’s just an issue we’re going to have to deal with Tuesday morning.”

Superintendent Tim Ricker said, “And a lot depends on the analysis in the report that you get and the extent of the analysis in that report …”

Diekemper interjected, “Well, we’ve already paid for supervision of that work.”

Charles said, “It becomes an issue of should that have been avoided? And that’s when you get into the details of the work and is it reasonable to assume? So that’s where you have to compare that to the legal requirements of the various contracts. And, again, when we get to that point, then we’ll have to put a contract in front of our attorneys and get their advice on this …”

Asked who discovered the roof problem, Charles said, “It was, I think, identified originally by our architects during the punch-list walk throughs. Our architects are not on the job eight hours a day, every day, as the contractor is, as McCarthy employees were. But it was first brought to our attention by the architects.”