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Vo-tech board seeking construction manager for renovation

| Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 10:30 p.m.

After scrapping a proposed $9 million contract for Chevron Energy Solutions last week, the Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center's leadership is seeking a new construction manager for a renovation to the 38-year-old vo-tech building in New Stanton.

The center's Joint Operating Committee — comprised of school board members from the nine participating districts — wants to interview three prospective construction managers before its Feb. 27 meeting in preparation for a new 60-day window for soliciting project bids.

Committee members on Jan. 30 unanimously rescinded the center's proposed deal for Chevron, which would have been the construction manager and contractor through terms of the Act 39, the Guaranteed Energy Savings Act.

The first major renovation in the center's history required support from all nine school boards, but Norwin officials declined to vote on it and the Hempfield Area and Belle Vernon Area boards didn't put it on their agendas last month. Southmoreland delayed its scheduled vote until after the vo-tech meeting.

Barb Viola, who is president of the vo-tech committee, said her colleagues on the Norwin School Board were concerned about the previous request for proposals for the project. When it was bid out last year, Chevron was one of only two contractors that applied within the 30-day window.

Some committee members said they wanted a professional consultant to review the project specifications, questioning if Chevron might have “padded” its proposal to increase the cost. Toward the end of January, vo-tech administrators received information from Chevron that it was willing to reduce the cost to about $8.1 million.

Viola said she hopes six or seven firms bid on the project this time around.

“It's not a ‘no' to the project,” Viola said of Norwin's decision. “It's the way (the bids) went out.”

Hempfield School Board member Bob McDonald said financing was among the district's concerns because officials wanted information about potentially floating a bond. With the Chevron deal, districts would have been required to contribute upfront costs toward improvements that were projected to reduce energy costs in the long run.

The vo-tech committee last week appointed Penn-Trafford Superintendent Thomas Butler, Yough School Board member Karl Spudy and the vo-tech's assistant administrative director, Jeffrey Geesey, to identify three prospective construction managers for the project.

Butler said officials hope to be able to select a contractor in May so work may begin soon after.

The project would include upgrading the building's heating and cooling systems and replacing the roof and windows, among other improvements to the mechanical areas in the center.

Under the existing conditions, the vo-tech cannot run its welding programs at the center because the exhaust system is not up to code, Butler said.

Nick Petrucci, who is Penn-Trafford's representative on the vo-tech committee, said he is frustrated by the delay in the project because he worries that the center's three boilers might fail before the end of the school year. The center might have to shut down for six to eight weeks if the boilers fail before summer, he said.

“I personally want those boilers done this summer,” Petrucci said. “You're pushing year 39 on boilers that are about 15 years past their life-expectancy.”

CWCTC Director Brad Elwood conceded that the conditions of the boilers are a concern.

“We've been fortunate so far,” he said.

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8671 or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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