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Penn Hills school construction audit complete

| Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Penn Hills Progress
Above, construction on the new Penn Hills Elementary School in 2013. The elementary, as well as the new Penn Hills Senior High School, are in the PlanCon pipeline for reimbursement.

The $19 million that Penn Hills school board officials voted to borrow last summer has not been touched, according to a review of all construction expenses dating back to 2009.

Construction manager Dennis Russo of Russo Construction Services in Plum, along with business manager Richard Liberto, performed the audit over a roughly two-week period at the request of the school district finance committee.

During a discussion of why new tennis courts seemingly disappeared from the original design for the school's campus, Russo said he wasn't comfortable moving ahead with plans to resurface the Yuhas-McGinley Stadium track and look into building tennis courts until he'd been able to go back through all of the documents handed over by previous managers Turner Construction.

The school board voted to terminate its relationship with Turner in September 2012.

Russo said he and Liberto went back to 2009 and spent about 50 hours rebuilding the entire budget.

“There was some information that was not passed on to me when Turner left,” Russo said. “There was a gap in the history that the administration had in their computer records. And the (financial) uncertainty was based on all the soft costs that I hadn't been a part of — there were services like purchase orders and engineering that I didn't have on hand.”

Russo said that as of the district's last billing cycle, between $32 and $34 million remains in the construction fund, and he is comfortable going ahead with plans for the field resurfacing — which will likely take place following the Pittsburgh East Relay for Life in July, Liberto said — and exploring tennis courts further.

“What we've determined is that (post-construction), we have a $1.1 million surplus at this point, and it will take about $300,000 to $500,000 to put (courts and a new track) in,” Russo said.

“I wanted to get the accounting up-to-date and that's basically what we did. So everything seems to be on the up-and-up and we're moving forward.”

Russo said construction on the district's consolidated elementary center is also moving forward on schedule.

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

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