AASD building project on budget

The number of change orders added to the Altoona Area School District’s high school building project has peaked at No. 114, but the budget is far from bursting, the district’s Construction Manager Damion Spahr said.

Overall the high school building project is on budget at about $88 million and on schedule for completion by June 2020.

“The big hill (of change orders) is done,” Spahr said during an information-only school board meeting this week.

Board member Rick Hoover wanted Spahr to repeat the fact that the contingency fund looks good.

“Absolutely,” Spahr said.

Over the past nine months of high school construction, there were 114 change orders for a total of $850,000, though estimates of what they would cost were higher.

That’s only 37 percent of the total $2.3 million contingency fund for the district’s high school building project, he said.

Most of the change orders have been made because of omissions from architectural drawings.

At the end of the project, there is a process by which the board receives money back from the architectural firm KCBA if there is a difference between what the cost of the materials would have been if included in the original bid and what they cost at the time of the change order.

Board member Ron Johnston expressed impatience with architect Mike Kelly of KCBA because of the change orders.

“The district ate every one of these change orders,” Johnston said to Kelly. “How many have you eaten?”

Kelly said 114 change orders for a project of this size is actually quite good.

Spahr, who the board hired as an independent overseer of the architect, said Kelly’s work was well within expectations.

“We know he’s not perfect. By the way his contract is set up, you get reimbursed appropriately. It’s not a get from him as you go. It’s get from him at the end,” Spahr said.

Superintendent Charles Prijatelj said the total number of change orders have been kept to a minimum.

They arise from contractors’ “requests for information” or discrepancies between what the contractor thinks they need and what the architectural drawings call for. Prijatelj said 114 change orders is a third of the 345 requests for information.

The new building is set for completion by June 10, 2020.

Many of the change orders arose from unforeseen conditions at the foundation of the A building which is under renovation as part of the project.

“We have a very big project that came out of the ground in a city with a lot of utilities,” Spahr said. “There were lots of little issues. I am very comfortable with your rate of change orders now,” Spahr said.

“The good news is we are heading down a stretch where we will see less change orders,” he added.

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435.