Niagara Gazette

August 29, 2013

Capital projects progressing in Falls school district

By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Progress was the theme of the day Thursday as Falls School Board members were updated on the status of the first phase of a $67 million capital improvement project.

Assistant Superintendent Mark Laurrie said about 150 people have worked in or around six school buildings and the high school's athletic fields as part of the first wave of construction, begun this past spring with roof work at LaSalle Preparatory School.

In all, much of the work is either on or ahead of schedule, he said, which is translating to advanced schedules for some of the upcoming projects.

"We're quite far ahead on our athletic fields," Laurrie said. "The contractors actually asked if they could start working on our tennis courts in a couple weeks, which were supposed to be started in March."

Tennis is just one example of the push the district has given its project leaders in the past few months. Work at Kalfas Magnet School, arguably the most involving work of the project with the creation of six new classrooms in the rear of the building, is also ahead of schedule, he said.

Progress also brought with it the first of many payments the board is expected to approve for completed work. About $3.5 million was approved during the board's meeting, authorizing payment based on percentage of performance, Laurrie said.

In addition, the board also approved a handful of change orders performed in the past few months. Usually resulting in extra expenditures, these additional jobs actually brought a credit to the school's account of about $57,000.

The extra money will be used to handle some of the latest changes the district will incur before the next meeting in September. Changes like the giant hole dug outside Kalfas this past week.

It's there where a problem area on a concrete walkway finally received a diagnosis. Crumbling materials never lasted, ground always sunk despite remedying as best as the district's grounds people could muster.

When workers dug, though, Laurrie said a portion of a sewer pipe buried about 17 feet underground was actually missing a section.

"We were wondering why the sidewalk kept collapsing on us," Laurrie said. "So we took care of it."

Another change to the original plan came when trying to receive approval for a press box built into the bleachers at the high school's new football, soccer and lacrosse field.

Laurrie said while the district received approval from the state's education department, an additional OK from the New York Power Authority, which has buried power lines in the vicinity of the bleachers, told the district no.

It turns out, Laurrie said, NYPA requires a 10-foot buffer zone around the wires, presumably in case the area needs to be dug up.

"Everything was fine except the press box," Laurrie said. "It would've fallen in that 10-foot zone. But our contractor did a heck of a job. It could've been a heck of a lot worse than what it turned out to be."