Construction at Hartford Public High School may run millions of dollars over budget again, according to officials overseeing the school's renovation.
The school's renovation budget has risen over the years, with the latest standing at $107 million. The school building committee, with Mayor Eddie A. Perez serving as chairman, on Monday approved $458,581 in change orders - many of them caused by delays in construction - and drew the project's contingency fund down to zero.
But the construction manager on the project, Fluor NE, has a claim in with the city for more than $1 million in expenses that go beyond the budget. And two subcontractors have filed claims that amount to more than $3 million.
The bulk of Fluor's claim covers costs that the construction manager says were incurred because of delays in construction.
When construction is delayed, the costs of material and labor can increase along the way, and subcontractors may pay overtime and bring in extra labor in an attempt to get back on schedule. It is not always clear who is at fault for various delays and therefore who - the city or the construction manager - is responsible for covering the cost increases.
One of the subcontractors seeking more money, Earth Technologies Inc., has filed a lawsuit seeking more than $1 million for site work that it did. At issue is whether the scope of the work was authorized, according to a city official.
The second claim seeks more than $2.3 million for McPhee Electric, which alleges that delays in construction caused it to accelerate its work schedule at a higher cost.
The building and renovation project has been beset by problems for years and now, nearly a year after construction should have been finished, the school's pool remains closed because of leaks and the athletic fields behind the school have not been restored.
In addition to bids coming in higher than expected for the project, there were signs along the way that, even with budget increases, keeping up with costs was problematic. Last spring, Fluor threatened a work stoppage because of a payment dispute. The city had withheld nearly $4 million, much of it because of change orders. The work stoppage was ultimately averted and an agreement for payment reached.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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