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Future Projects at Risk with $800,000 GRHS Fields Change Order

Board members expressed frustration and disappointment that significant soil removal of the HS fields complex will cost $600,000 or more, and could shelve other possible capital projects.

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."

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor James Kleimann at James.Kleimann@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

jp1 July 10, 2012 at 11:46 AM
Sorry for Glen Rock, but happy because this sounds like a Ridgewood project.
Big Brother July 10, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Ok, now let's see how the BOE will wiggle out of this one. I am sure that Mr. Rinderknecht, our $187k/yr biz administrator, made sure that he put a stop loss order in the contract that was signed with the contractor. This has been a train wreck from the beginning. Countless residents expressed their concerns for the clay-ridden Glen Rock soil. Why do you think that so many houses have sump pumps, and seepage pits? Were the boring holes done properly, by an independent geological firm? So, you are telling me that there is no efficient way to mix the clay-ridden soil with good soil to make it more workable? How could this have happened? Who is responsible? Now the students suffer due to this project getting rushed through!!! Even the Mayor expressed concerns, before voting for it. The H.S. projectors that are broken, the textbooks that we need to make copies of because we don't have enough( can someone say "copyright infringement"?) This boondoggle can not and will not affect other capital improvements. The GR BOE must find a way to "make it right" within it's current budget. At the end of the meeting where this "plan" was approved, it was mentioned to Mr. Vanlangen, "Remember when Genius Failed". Mr. Mulligan teaches about options, well I am sure that our biz administrator built in a put so the GR taxpayers are not on the hook. I thought that this debacle would end with the GRHS Class of 2012 with their Hollywood sign on a dirt mound @ graduation... What a joke.
Elizabeth Cox July 10, 2012 at 07:54 PM
well i am am very sad that there are issues with this project- my kids and i can't wait for the fields to be done- hopefully they can fix the problems and get back to fixing up the place. The fields in this town are a joke! we pay so much in taxes and our fields aren't even playable! the fact that Game On GR has to raise it's own money for a complex is rediculous- why don't they take the $$ from the fees we pay for the pool- everyone knows they don't use it to spruce up the pool or make the food better-
nanci July 10, 2012 at 10:34 PM
Does anyone still have a copy of last weeks Gazette? I recall that the BA received a bonus on top of his salary for the last construction project due to its success. I suggest only slightly tongue in cheek that due to this debacle he receive a salary reduction to help compensate for the money lost.
Voter July 11, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Do you think it's time the board RESIGNED!!!! We need to get term LIMITS. Do you think twenty years is enough to get it right. We need a audit of how the bond money was wasted.
John Hahn July 13, 2012 at 01:14 PM
EB Pool Fees are not raised for the pool. They go into the general fund. They get spent on whatever the mayor & council want to spend it on like the council's medical insurance. Guess what they will raise pool fees again and tell you the pool is still a bargain.
John Hahn July 13, 2012 at 01:24 PM
I do understand your frustration Voter. The question is who will replace them? There are not a lot of people jumping at the chance to be a BOE trustee. The Bus. Adm. should be fired instead of being given bonuses for longevity. Before the referendum, he assured the audience he has the experience for these projects. Mr. Cella said there were 2 borings taken. TWO. The B.A. indicated there were multiple borings. How many? 3? This cost overruns costs each household and additional $203. This is on top of the $945 per household that the project costs.
Big Brother July 13, 2012 at 01:32 PM
John- Being that the business administrator's contract has not been approved, yet- isn't now the perfect time to hold him accountable for his actions? He, in no way, shape, or form, should shoulder full blame, but, as you've stated, he told us that he had experience in these types of projects. Rather than renew him @ $186k, I am confident that there are several GR residents with ample business experience that would jump @ that position for $135k + normal benefits.
James Kleimann July 13, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Hi John, There were six borings between the two fields.

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