The cost of the continues to rise and the consequences could be tremendous – at least $600,000 of bad soil could prevent the district from tackling other projects down the line, board members said Monday.
School board member Carlo Cella reported Monday night that the engineer, contractor and architect of the district's ongoing found "unsuitable soil" at the all-purpose field and might find some at the lower soccer field.
To date, over 4,600 cubic yards of bad soil has been found and excavated at the all-purpose football field, checking in at $600,000. Further tests are being done to determine any unsuitable soil at the lower soccer field. The soil is not contaminated, Cella explained, but because of its composition is not suitable to be built upon, necessitating an excavation and soil replacement.
"It's unfortunate, it's something we are committed to fix[ing] and getting done right," he said. "Nobody's happy about finding this out late in the game."
At the board table, members expressed heavy concern that this $600,000+ setback will prevent district from funding new science labs, improving gymnasiums, installing air conditioners at elementary schools, and improving the baseball field.
"It is those projects that this board will have to forgo now because of this," said member Sheldon Hirschberg, who has opposed some aspects of the referendum in the past but ultimately voted in favor of this change order. "Some of the projects I would have loved to have seen, we can't do now."
In a 6-3 vote, the district approved a transfer of $800,000 from its capital reserve account to back against the liabilities of the poor soil. The transfer will not impact the tax levy, Cella said, later adding that the total project is still under budget and that he's hopeful the (for now) unspent $200,000 will remain just that.
The district expects to have $1.5 million left over in its capital reserve project by next June, Business Administrator Michael Rinderknecht said. Unspent monies on the budget transfer would be returned to the capital budget.
The board had already set aside $100,000 against the chance unsuitable soil was found, but that insurance measure has proven to be far too little given the recent findings.
Boring work done on both fields to test for the issue prior to construction yielded no sign of trouble, Rinderknecht remarked.
"This unsuitable soil magnitude we hit was very extraordinary," he said. "Not one boring sample that came back showed any detection of unsuitable soil. We were hitting pockets at various layers and levels. There was no consistency at all and it's just an unfortunate situation."
Neighbors of the area, however, testified at the in February that the soil was essentially a clay mess and could be problematic.
A frustrated public on Monday night told school officials they felt the quoted price on soil excavation and replacement was too high, balking at contractor Turco Golf's $130 per cubic yard price. Citizens suggested opening up more bid options but were told the public bid process does not allow for that. The latest change order is coming on the heels of a to widen the field.
Rinderknecht said the district is working "behind the scenes" to see if it can work out a better price with contractor Turco Golf, adding that he will likely have to file notice that the district might exceed the 20 percent cap on change order overruns.
Though there was clearly disappointment, apprehension and skepticism from the public and some board members with the latest setback and its high costs, one trustee said the board owed it to the community to trudge forward.
"Our main responsibility here is to the students, to the district and the community," Trustee Barbara Steuert said. "I don't think we can risk having this project stopped in mid-August because something comes up and we run out of money. We can't have no place to have outside gym all fall, we can't have no fields all fall. It's our responsibility to put the kids first here and make sure this gets completed as quickly as it can."
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