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Despite unanticipated projects, Prop 4 contingency sufficient, Lindbergh official says


Despite two unanticipated projects totaling roughly $350,000, a Lindbergh School District official believes the remaining contingency of about $680,000 for the Proposition 4 bond issue will be sufficient to complete all of the planned work.

District voters last year approved Proposition 4, a $14.1 million bond issue designed to address safety issues at all of the district's schools. Approval of the measure increased the district's tax rate by 10 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

A four-sevenths majority — 57.14 percent — was required for approval of the measure, which received 4,908 "yes'' votes — 57.67 percent — and 3,603 "no'' votes — 42.33 percent.

Proposition 4 will result in improvements at all district schools, including increased parking and improved traffic flow; removal of arsenic-treated wood playground equipment at the elementary schools; renovated locker rooms, a new pool and multipurpose room at the high school; and an expanded library and enclosed walkway connecting the buildings at Truman Elementary School.

Bids approved earlier this year by the Board of Education for Proposition 4 construction projects placed the bond issue improvements at roughly $241,000 under budget. At a special meeting Feb. 24, board members agreed to return the remaining $241,697 to the construction contingency fund, increasing the contingency fund to more than $1.3 million.

However, two unanticipated projects at the high school — the required installation of a water line for fire service and replacing four outmoded electrical transfers with a single more efficient transformer — totaling roughly $350,000 — have caused board members to be concerned about whether the amount of remaining contingency will be sufficient to complete all of the Proposition 4 projects. But Assistant Superintendent for Finance Pat Lanane, who also serves as the district's chief financial officer, told the Call he believes the remaining contingency funds of roughly $680,000 will be sufficient to complete the planned work.

During a Board of Education meeting June 8, Director of Facilities Karl Guyer and Lanane discussed board members' concerns about the remaining contingency, which Lanane estimated at $680,000.

Guyer told board members he has had discussions with Jared Hites of the McCarthy Construction Co., the construction manager for the Proposition 4 projects.

"... In taking a look at where we are, I am going to talk with McCarthy. I had some preliminary discussions with Jared Hites today, but I'd also like to ask that John Heidbreder (of McCarthy), who has been a little disconnected from the project, which is a positive thing — he's not covering the day-to-day items, but I'd like him as a senior person with the firm to take a look at our contingency and review where we are, the status of the construction progress at this point against the available contingency and allowances that we have remaining for the project, to get his independent review as to where we are overall ...''

Regarding the fire line installation, Guyer told the board, "The price did adjust on this project that was not on anyone's radar screen when we did the initial bidding. It's now something that we folded into the project and are proceeding with, but until we actually dig the fire line, there is some potential — part of the increase was because we were aware of some conflicts and crossovers that were planned for. Until we dig that line and get it installed and back filled, we won't know if there's another item or two that we have to respond to one way or another.

"And the final item that's out there is the Truman foundations and utilities. In about a month, we should be through the foundation/utility installation, which means, again, some of the unknowns that are out there that could have the potential for significant dollars will get by. If I could draw a chart, I guess what I'm painting a picture for you all is that I'm seeing a little bit higher initial escalation on the contingency, but it dropping off and actually leveling at a point that will be below a higher level that we maintained for Prop R 2000 and Prop R '95, where had renovation work that was fairly deep both years that we ran that project and so until you started doing the work for the subsequent year, you really had to be careful of the contingency ...,'' the director of facilities added.

During an interview with the Call last week about the contingency, Lanane said, "... At this point, we are not overly concerned. We've had some early hits ... They made us upgrade the whole electrical box situation from the road. That was pretty expensive. Then we had this fire line thing. That was terrible. That was a couple hundred-thousand dollars and the electric was like $150,000. So we had two real early hits that no one had anticipated and there were maybe some cheaper ways to have done them, but you wouldn't be doing them in a fashion that would ensure that the taxpayers didn't have to come back in the next five years and do something else. You want to fix it. This is it, folks. We're done for 20 more years. We won't have to touch this again ...

"And the other thing that's going on, this is a very different project from some of the other projects. If you go back to like Prop R '95, that was all renovation work and you had a high number of change orders all the way through the project because renovation work is what I call 'dirty work.' You think you know what you're going to find and then it's different — lots of hidden conditions ... And so you do watch your contingency there and if you have 12 months of construction, you'd like to see (it evenly distributed) because you know you're going to need stuff. This isn't that way. There's two phases to this program. Phase one is what I call demolition and renovation. You had the demolition of the old pool. We had the demolition of the site to build the new library at Truman and we had the demolition and the renovation of the those (high school) locker rooms, Gym 2 locker rooms, a huge, huge project,'' he continued.

"That is what I call the dirty work and that's where we fully expected a much higher number and frequency of change orders and that's what's happened. We are now ready to begin phase two of this program, which almost all of it consists of new work, new construction. New construction, by definition, is much cleaner and we'll have far fewer change orders, simply because you have on paper what's going to happen. You know what the conditions are. So once you've done all the dig out for this and once you've put the foundations in, you're ready to go the other way,'' Lanane continued.

"The foundations for Truman's library will be poured sometime within the next week and the foundation for the pool will be poured probably within the next week and a half. So we're there and once we start that process, we believe that we will have adequate contingency to finish this project,'" he added.

The assistant superintendent noted that the board increased the amount of contingency funds for Proposition 4.

"The board, to their credit, actually increased our contingency. They actually added some money back to the contingency and that's also proving to be a very wise decision. I've finally gotten to the point where anytime seven people who are all very intelligent people and people in positions of authority tell me something's a good idea, I always believe it. It's always proven to be true in 31 years of doing this, being in education, and that's one of the reasons we have the system we have.

"Seven heads are much better than one. So I really appreciated their scrutiny of this. I'd much rather have a board who is just willing to be so fiscally responsible as opposed to ones who just let the guys in my spot go and never question anything. I think it's the right way to go,'' Lanane said.

"I'm confident that we will absolutely have the resources necessary to finish this project and the three things we always say: 'On time, within budget and top quality,''' the assistant superintendent said.

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