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Delays adding up for new Thomas Jefferson high school

| Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, 3:18 a.m.
A rendering shows the atrium of the new Thomas Jefferson High School that is expected to open for the 2018-19 school year.
Submitted
A rendering shows the atrium of the new Thomas Jefferson High School that is expected to open for the 2018-19 school year.

Extensive ground work at the site of the new Thomas Jefferson High School more than a year ago triggered an initial delay in the project that is now is costing the West Jefferson Hills School District $160,000 — and there could be more coming.

School board members at a meeting last month approved an agreement with contractors for the project, extending the completion deadline for the new high school — based on initial groundwork delays — to July 20, a 77-day extension from the initially set date of completion.

However, a labor shortage in recent months has caused the deadline to slip “a little” since then, Superintendent Michael Ghilani said

“We're still trying to get a handle on where we're at right now as far as the date of completion,” he said.

Board members also agreed to pay contractor Ruthrauff Sauer LLC $121,511 and contractor Wheels Mechanical Inc. $39,307 to cover extra costs incurred due to the groundwork delay.

The district still is in negotiations with general contractor Nello Construction Co. and electrician Kirby Electric Inc. to determine delay costs for the initial phase of the project, Ghilani said, noting the district has been working to settle the delay costs with the contractors for more than a year.

“The groundwork for the project was a major issue,” he said. “Because there was so much, it took longer than expected. Because there was that delay at the beginning of the project, it has a domino effect on some of the contractors.”

Board members in a separate motion at their Dec. 5 meeting also approved a change order for with Nello Construction for the west access road undercut, to be performed by Macson Corp., at a cost not to exceed $68,461.

The new $95 million Thomas Jefferson High School is being built on 161 acres off of Old Clairton Road that once was a reclaimed strip mine, as well as the site of a former deep mine, said Ryan Snodgrass, director of facilities.

Prior to purchasing the land, district leaders knew steps would need to be taken to prepare the site for construction, he said. That two part process included deep dynamic compaction — or compacting the soil to prepare for construction of the foundation — and mine grouting — where a series of holes are drilled into the underground mine to fill them fill grout in an effort to secure the mine roof and prevent subsidence.

The soil on the property required additional compaction than the district's geo-technical team initially expected, causing an initial delay, Snodgrass said.

The 100-plus year old mine under the property also was not completely collapsed, leading the district to pour more than 5,000 cubic yards of grout during the grouting process, instead of the initially expected 3,200 cubic yards, Snodgrass said. That also caused a delay.

“Long and short, we were delayed because we had to take extra steps to make sure our site was ready for our new building,” Snodgrass said. “Soil and foundation issues have to be a priority to make sure our building stands the test of time, and they are extremely difficult to fix once the building is built.”

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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