The school building committee in Hartford on Tuesday approved just over $200,000 in additional change orders for Hartford Public High School, which has well exceeded its $107 million project budget and still faces millions in unpaid claims.
The latest change orders came three months after the building committee approved $458,581 in change orders.
Veronica Airey-Wilson, a building committee member, said the city has put additional money in the contingency fund to cover change orders. She asked for a public accounting at each meeting to show how much of that money remains after the committee authorizes using those funds. But Mayor Eddie A. Perez, chairman of the building committee, said that the committee previously approved the additional funding in a closed-door executive session and has not made the accounting public because of pending litigation from contractors.
City officials are continuing their negotiations with contractors who say they are owed about $4 million for work they did on the school.
The construction manager on the project, Fluor NE, has a claim in with the city for more than $1 million in expenses that go beyond the budget. And two subcontractors have filed claims that amount to more than $3 million.
The school's pool, meanwhile, remains unfinished and repairs on it are not expected to be complete before the middle of March.
Construction workers found that the pool had been leaking for a long time and the steel columns under the pool were so corroded that had the problem not been identified, the pool could have become a safety hazard, said Charles Crocini, the city's former director of capital projects who is still advising the building committee.
The addition of around a half-million square feet in new construction in the school is furthering the need for 10 additional buildings and grounds employees in the district, said Claudio Bazzano, the school district's director of buildings and grounds.
This year in his budget, Bazzano said, he will ask for four more mechanical journeymen to maintain equipment and change air filters in classroom ceilings for new air-conditioning units, one more control mechanic to maintain software technology on the mechanical systems, two painters, one carpenter and two additional employees to help remove snow and support tradesmen.
The district's buildings and grounds department used to have 52 employees, Bazzano said, and it dropped to 30 employees when the school budget was cut in 2001-02. He said there now are 35 people working in the department and with the additional square footage and renovations, he said, his department needs more staff.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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