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New construction manager outlines more than $5M in savings for Penn Hills School District

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 9:56 p.m.
Penn Hills Progress
The Penn Hills School District is nearing completion of a brand-new high school, above, and is starting the construction of a consolidated elementary center. Patrick Varine | Penn Hills Progress

Dennis Russo, the new construction manager for the Penn Hills School District's high school and elementary center, is confident he will be able to save the district upward of $5 million on the two projects.

Russo outlined more than $3 million in realized savings on the new Penn Hills High School, which will open its doors after the winter holiday break for students and staff.

Starting with a $1.2 million difference in the construction-manager costs between Russo Construction Services and the former managers, Turner Construction, Russo also said he was able to eliminate a soft-cost contingency of more than $300,000 from the old construction budget and reduce architect-service fees by roughly $850,000.

“Basically, these are management savings more than anything else,” Russo said.

With regard to the district's consolidated elementary center — whose planned Nov. 3 groundbreaking was pushed back in the wake of Hurricane Sandy's potential effects — Russo said the same type of cost savings total about $2.2 million.

“We're also looking at doing some value engineering on the elementary center,” Russo said.

Even with the official groundbreaking being delayed, work already has begun on the building, which will consolidate all of the district's elementary students under one roof.

“Work got going on Aug. 27,” Russo said.“The mine-grouting operation is ongoing, along with coal removal and earthwork, and work on the footers began Oct. 15.”

Russo said the estimated completion date is mid-June of 2014, with a substantial completion date set for mid-April of the same year.

“We may fluctuate a little on that April date, but the completion date should hold pretty well,” he said.

Russo said residents need not be concerned that the cost savings will result in a less-than-satisfactory school.

“I know there are some feelings in this community that the (elementary) building will be ‘dumbed down' in some way because of the costs we've been looking at, but that's not the case,” he said.

“Similar value engineering was done at the high school with things like the lighting packages.”

Penn Hills School District officials not announced a new date for the elementary-center groundbreaking.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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