Westport school foundations going in despite rain

Bids produce $2.9 million in school savings; Fill problem causes costly truck caravan

By Bruce Burdett
Posted 11/27/19

Despite seemingly endless rain since work began, crews have been making strong progress on foundation work for Westport’s new grade 5-12 school, the School Building Committee was told at two …

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Westport school foundations going in despite rain

Bids produce $2.9 million in school savings; Fill problem causes costly truck caravan

Posted

Despite seemingly endless rain since work began, crews have been making strong progress on foundation work for Westport’s new grade 5-12 school, the School Building Committee was told at two recent meetings.

The committee has also received encouraging news about costs as bids for most subcontractors have come in substantially below budget.

“Since we really started going after the foundations … I think it has rained every day or every other day, We actually have been pumping the large hole in the center of the site” to enable backfilling said Robert Gilchrist of Agostini Bacon Co., the firm the town hired to serve as Construction Manager at Risk to manage the project..

Excavation began October 15 and all foundation work needs top be complete by the end of December.

With that done, steel work will start and run through the winter. Steelworkers, Mr. Gilchrist said, “don’t care how cold it is” or whether it’s snowing. The project remains on pace to open in time for the start of school in September 2021

Bids bring savings

At meetings on Nov. 6 and Nov. 20, Mr. Gilchrist brought encouraging word about bidding results that provided around $2.9 millions in savings, an amount that was reduced somewhat by an unanticipated need to import fill at a cost of up to $543,600.

Mr. Gilchrist read results from bidding for a variety of subcontractors, adding, “You’ll notice a trend here that almost all of the numbers are below estimates.”

On the list are companies that will provide services including masonry, waterproofing and caulking, glass and glazing, miscellaneous metals, roofing and flashing, resilient flooring, metal windows, painting, tile, acoustical ceiling tile, elevators, fire suppression system, plumbing, HVAC and electrical

Highlights included HVAC, coming in at almost $900,000 below estimate, and electrical, over a half million below estimate.

They got a scare when Fernandes Masonry notified Agostini that they had to withdraw their winning bid for masonry work ($485,000 less than the next lowest bidder) but after three hours of feverish back and forth the company agreed to live with its bid. Mr. Gilchrist has worked with Fernandes (and almost all of the subcontractors) often in the past and is especially happy with the work the company does.

“Definitely good news today,” Mr. Gilchrist said. 

“We are very appreciative,” committee Chairwoman Dianne Baron told Mr. Gilchrist. “It is amazing, we are thrilled.

Costly fill needed

Tempering the good news came word that the state Department of Environmental Protection had sent late and unexpected notice that the contractors must not do any work within 250 feet of the elementary school well on which testing still needs to be done.

That ‘Do Not Touch’ order means that may not remove fill there as planned for use as backfill around the freshly poured foundations.

“There is a significant amount of material that we were going to use to backfill the foundations that we can’t get at right now,” Mr. Gilchrist said.

Although they are working to convince DEP to change that ruling, he recommended that the committee approve importing up to 22,000 cubic yards of structural fill from outside sources, at a cost not to exceed $543,600 “so as not to interrupt progress” on the foundations.

If DEP revises the restriction, Mr. Gilchrist said, it is possible that not all of that money will be needed.

That fill began arriving last week — On November 5, around 100 truckloads of fill were trucked in — the next day, better than 80 truckloads, work that continued through the week.

Since importing fill will ultimately leave them with more fill than anticipated, a committee member asked what will become of the excess.

Mr. Agostini said they can use it to elevate the playing fields, something that “actually improves the fields.” The fields, he said, sit “in a bit of a bowl,” and raising them two or three feet will bring them up to grade with adjacent asphalt. 

Board member Antone Vieira Jr. questioned why the contractor had not anticipated that the DEP would object to digging near the elementary school well.

“This is sacred ground” — a water supply for an elementary school, he said, and now the project is hit with a half-million dollar bill.

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