TJ officials consider trying to recoup some costs for high school construction project
A delay in the construction of the new Thomas Jefferson High School is costing West Jefferson Hills School District more than $1.5 million.
District leaders, however, say they will consider trying to recoup some of the costs.
School board members on Jan. 22 agreed in an 8-0 vote to a settlement with the general contractor for the project, Nello Construction Co., by which the district will pay $1,550,000 for costs associated with the delayed completion of the project.
Board member Kerri Gonot was absent.
Nello Construction Co. declined to comment.
“We settled with every contractor but Nello,” Superintendent Michael Ghilani said. “That’s something that we’ve been working on for over a year that we were finally able to close out.”
The new Thomas Jefferson High School, which was set to open for the 2018-19 school year, now is scheduled to open for the 2019-20 school year.
The agreement with Nello states that all of its work will be completed by April 1, excluding landscaping and paving, which must be done by May 15.
“Our goal in this project was A. to get the project done on time. That ship has sailed. We will be in the building next year,” Ghilani said. “But, also to get out of this project without us having to go to litigation. This is kind of the final buttoning up of that.”
The costs incurred by the contractors due to the delay in the project include increases in labor, increases in materials and “increases in inefficiencies because of the time that the work has to be done,” Ghilani said.
Delays to the construction of the new high school being built on 161 acres off Old Clairton Road started early in the project due to issues with the groundwork, district leaders have said.
The new school is being built on property that once was a reclaimed strip mine, as well as the site of a former deep mine.
Prior to purchasing the land, district leaders have said they knew steps would need to be taken to prepare the site for construction. However, the soil on the property required additional compaction than the district’s geo-technical team expected, causing an initial delay.
The 100-plus-year-old mine under the property was not completely collapsed, leading the district to pour more than 5,000 cubic yards of grout during the grouting process, instead of the initially expected 3,200 cubic yards, leaders have said.
Late last year, the district agreed to pay two of its contractors a total of $160,000 for costs associated with the delay.
Ghilani said he did not have the total number paid out to the other contractors following the Jan. 22 board meeting.
According to the settlement agreement, Nello submitted claims to the district asserting it incurred an additional $1 million in costs associated with completion of predecessor site preparation work and $5.9 million in additional costs associated with alleged delays to the performance and completion of its work.
The district, in the agreement, disputes liability for portions of Nello’s claims and asserts that Nello or its subcontractors bear some responsibility for the extended duration of the project.
According to the agreement, Nello disputes liability for the additional costs the district claims it incurred, “including sums paid to settle delay claims from other prime contractors.”
The district still is within its $95 million budget for the project, the superintendent said.
The hope is to save money on movable fixtures and technology.
“At this point, if anything would happen in litigation, it would be initiated by the district to try to recoup some of the delay claim money,” Ghilani said “It’s something we’re having a conversation about. It’s something we’ll certainly consider.”
Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributor.