Change orders explained in Brocton

BROCTON – The Brocton Board of Education approved several more change orders for the school’s EXCEL Capital Project during Wednesday’s meeting, but not before they were given an explanation on why there have been so many lately.

Steve Sandberg and Ed Schober of Sandberg Kessler Architecture & Engineering gave a presentation to the board on what change orders are and why they are necessary in EXCEL projects.

Schober said contingency money is always set aside to account for things that are unknown, unforeseen or outright overlooked during the design phase and is included in the funds before voters approve projects at the ballot box.

“You don’t want to be so tight with your budget that you wouldn’t be able to react to something that pops up along the way, and we know there’s going to be things that come up,” he said. “You have a building like this that maybe you can see 50 percent of it when putting together drawings. Everything that’s inside the wall, above the ceiling, we’re kind of piecing it together to try to find out what’s there.”

The contingency for this project was set at around $1.2 million. About 4 percent has been used in change orders.

Sandberg said change orders are heavily scrutinized by Albany to make sure they are acceptable. Change orders are placed into four categories: owner’s request, discovered conditions, admissions/omissions (something that is forgotten) and errors/mistakes, which Sandberg said Brocton’s project has not yet had.

“(Discovered conditions) are especially evident in older buildings, when we’re working with older buildings such as this because the drawings for older buildings in the 1930s are very skimpy. There’s not a lot of information on those drawings,” he said. “It’s really unrealistic to investigate because it would be very costly to dig into the walls … beforehand, so you do the best you can with the drawings you have available and your knowledge of working with buildings like these.”

“For a lot of the change orders, some of it made sense and some of it didn’t,” board member Todd McFadden said. “That’s my whole issue is there’s extra costs (such as labor) being added that doesn’t need to be added.”

Board member Robert Mead-Colegrove told the engineers the board has heavily scrutinized change orders lately because the money being spent is not “free money.”

“It’s coming from state dollars. It’s coming from the taxpayers, so it’s not just this pot of money that’s sitting there,” he said. “It’s a contingency, but it doesn’t automatically assume that all of it has to be spent.”

“We can’t afford not to spend it,” Superintendent John Hertlein said. “We need to operate a school and I don’t want to send that money to Westchester (County). We can’t afford to do these projects by raising taxes in May.”

After the presentation, the board approved the change orders, including a ceiling replacement ($4,435), floor patching and plastering the auditorium back wall ($5,145), iron work ($3,020) and a credit for unnecessary steel work (-$3,639).

Also during the meeting, the board scheduled the first of three board development workshops to assess the school after the failed Westfield merger vote. The workshop will occur on Nov. 20 from 6 to 9 p.m. in the high school library, with the second tentatively being Dec. 7 and the third being sometime in January.

“That (meeting) would be around our job, what board members do, how we do it and what are we allowed to do? The second one … we would talk about the budget and curriculum for the next five years,” Hertlein said. “In January, we would have one to include the community and other stakeholders about … what does the community want of this school district?”

After the meeting, the board went into executive session to discuss negotiations with the Civil Service Employees Association.

The next regular meeting is Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. in the board room.

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