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Laurel Highlands hires construction firm for high school renovation

| Friday, March 30, 2012

In a split decision, Laurel Highlands School Board has hired Eckels Construction Co. of New Castle as the construction-management firm for the high school renovation project.

During the special meeting Thursday, board members Jamie Miller-D'Andrea, Beverly Beal and Melvyn Sepic voted against hiring the construction company. Board member Tom Vernon abstained from voting.

Beal said she voted against hiring the New Castle company because "I would like to go local to keep the money here in Fayette County."

Under the terms of the agreement, Superintendent Jesse Wallace said the New Castle company will be paid $680,000 -- 2 percent of the $34 million construction cost. The total cost is about $40 million.

Wallace said the school board received three other proposals for construction-management services. They came from Fairchance Construction Co., K2 Engineering of Uniontown and P.J. Dick Corp. of Pittsburgh.

"The other companies submitted flat rates for their services, which were a little higher than the 2-percent fee," Wallace said. "I think all of the proposals were fair. But the proposal the board accepted is 2 percent and is based on the construction cost. If the construction cost goes down, the school district will save money."

At a building-and-grounds committee meeting prior to the special session, the school board listened to several presentations about the high school renovation project.

Gary Meinen of Willis addressed school board members and administrators about the Owner Controlled Insurance Program, supported by the Pennsylvania School Board Association.

Meinen explained the program will provide the school district with general liability and workers' compensation insurance for all contractors on the renovation project.

"This program will provide up to $50 million in insurance coverage for the school district," Meinen said. "This is better coverage than most construction companies have available. If the school district decides to purchase this insurance, the bids for the construction will be lower because the companies will not have to provide their own insurance."

Mark E. Scheller, project architect at Eckles Architecture & Engineering, gave a presentation to school board members, showing the exterior and interior design for the renovated high school.

Both the interior and exterior of the building will include red and blue accents, the school's colors, and Mustang emblems to highlight school spirit and pride.

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