Niagara Gazette

November 25, 2013

Falls schools' capital project is slightly ahead of schedule

By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Progress is constantly being made in the Niagara Falls City School District’s $67 million capital improvement project, according to the district’s deputy superintendent.

Mark Laurrie said work, as a whole, is about two months ahead of schedule. Some pieces are actually slightly behind schedule, including some heating and cooling portions of the project at Abate Elementary.

But there’s a few aspects of the project further ahead than even two months, he said.

“We’ve started some work at the high school already,” he said. “That wasn’t supposed to start until the summer.”

In all, the first of two phases of the project — including summer work done to the roof at LaSalle Preparatory School which has been completed — is about 50 percent complete as of Thursday, he said. Accompanying that, the district’s school board has approved payment for 44 percent, including the latest series of payments to contractors like Rodems Construction Co. and Mark Cerrone Inc. Thursday.

With the payments, another 10 change orders were also approved Thursday, with half of them coming as owner-directed, Laurrie said. One of the change orders affects the bathrooms in Abate, while another will allow the teaching personnel in the school’s Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics – or STEM – lab to control its own temperature independent of the school’s thermostat.

Since work began, Laurrie said, the district has authorized $210,000 in change orders, which he said is entirely below where normal projects fall.

“We’re way under our contingency budget,” Laurrie said, declining to reveal the amount the district has available to spend.

Much of the district’s first phase, which has made sweeping changes at Abate, G.J. Mann and Maple Avenue elementaries and Henry J. Kalfas Magnet School, focused on elementary schools in every direction of the city. Many of the buildings have opened up the expanded areas, with the exception being Kalfas, which will still require more work building six permanent classrooms where temporary ones stood last school year.

But progress is being made every day around the other areas, including on the outdoor playing fields behind the district’s high school. After completing turf installation on the district’s varsity football field and baseball diamond, attention turned to periphery items, like bleachers and scoreboards.

Laurrie said about 50 people were working in the athletic field area Thursday, as the scoreboards were set in place before winter weather arrived over the weekend.

“They look great,” he said with a smile.

Helping the district further down the line concerning another one of its fields is a $200,000 grant from a source district leadership originally didn’t expect. The National Football League Foundation awarded the school the money to assist in resurfacing Nicoletti Field, which features community groups and the district’s modified and junior varsity teams, with artificial turf, as well as a few designer items Laurrie said the plan never called for.

“The grant from the NFL will allow us to add in a few things to the field, like a logo at midfield,” he said. “Originally, it was going to be a plain, green field (with football line markings). But now it can be a little bit more of a showy field.”




Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.