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Sixth Grade Academy annex construction on schedule in McKeesport

Michael DiVittorio
| Thursday, May 15, 2014, 3:51 a.m.
Construction crews work through scattered rain showers on Wednesday to continue building basement walls for the Sixth Grade Academy addition to Founders' Hall Middle School in McKeesport.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Construction crews work through scattered rain showers on Wednesday to continue building basement walls for the Sixth Grade Academy addition to Founders' Hall Middle School in McKeesport.
A construction worker measures sections of a wall during Wednesday's work day on the O'Neill Boulevard side of Founders' Hall Middle School.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
A construction worker measures sections of a wall during Wednesday's work day on the O'Neill Boulevard side of Founders' Hall Middle School.

A project designed to bring McKeesport Area School District middle-schoolers together with the latest technology is on schedule for completion by the beginning of 2015.

Officials broke ground on the new Sixth Grade Academy, also known as the Founders' Hall Annex, at Founders' Hall Middle School in mid-November.

“The project is on schedule right now. We have structural steel going up in areas,” said construction manager Joseph Brennan of PJ Dick Inc.

Masonry, electrical and plumbing work is being done in the locker room areas.

“We've started installation of piping down on the ground floor in the existing building, and we're putting pipes and hangers up in the second floor of the existing building to feed the new heating and air conditioning system,” Brennan said. “We're well on our way here.”

Brennan said classes at Founders' Hall are not being disrupted as a result of the construction.

School directors unanimously awarded bids for the Founders' Hall addition/renovation project in August.

Bids were awarded to Gurtner Construction for general contracting at $8,685,000, A-1 Electric for electrical construction at $1,294,000, R&B Mechanical for mechanical work at $3,510,000, and Wheels Mechanical for plumbing at $885,500.

The awards were subject to appropriate state PlanCon approvals, the issuance of all applicable permits, compliance with Act 34 requirements and review by district Solicitor Gary Matta.

PlanCon, or the planning and construction workbook, is a set of forms and procedures used to apply for state reimbursement.

Act 34 requires that a public hearing be held on all new construction and substantial additions for second-, third- and fourth-class school districts. It applies only to costs for new construction, and the hearings are to inform the public of the proposed project.

The district had two Department of Education-required hearings for the academy. The second one was for a projected increase in project costs.

Several change orders were approved since then, both decreasing and increasing the cost of work.

Brennan said there was a $16,400 deduction for gymnasium flooring by the general contractor. An increase of $5,627 for sanitary tap modifications along Eden Park Boulevard and an increase of $27,049 for the relocation of a gas line were processed for Wheels Mechanical.

R&B Mechanical and A-1 Electric had no change orders processed to date, Brennan said.

“There are several reasons (for) change orders,” Brennan said. “It could be an error or an omission on the architect's part, the designer's part. It could be an unforeseen condition such as the gas line relocation ... Then there are things that come up throughout the duration of the project. That's pretty common. Substantial completion (will be done) by Dec. 14. Final completion (is due) by Jan. 9, 2015.”

Substantial completion means the academy will be ready for occupancy. There may be some punch list items the architect would want done by the contractors.

“I think things are going quite well right now,” Brennan said. “With all this rain it doesn't make the excavation and the footer work too easy. We have to try and stay on schedule even though we have these weather constraints. I'd like to see a little less rain, put it that way.”

Ryan Pierce of JC Pierce LLC is the architect of the 45,000-square-foot two-story academy along Eden Park Boulevard.

It will contain 16 classrooms, one life-skills room, a large faculty space, a large group instruction room, a dedicated science lab and two small group instruction rooms. The basement level will have a semi-finished wrestling practice room and locker rooms.

“This was part of the complete kindergarten through sixth-grade realignment in the McKeesport Area School District,” district spokesperson Kristen Davis said. “We wanted to continue offering our students in the district the best learning opportunities. We were able to build a new building and add additions to two of our existing buildings, creating a state-of-the-art learning experience for our students.

“Additionally, going from four K-5 buildings down to two is a great cost savings in regards to utilities and day-to-day operating costs. Enabling the sixth-grade to join the existing seventh- and eighth-grade building promotes a true middle school feeling on this campus.”

Twin Rivers Primary and Intermediate are the new schools the district built at 1600 and 1602 Cornell St. to consolidate elementary classes. They opened earlier this year.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965 .

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