School board hires ‘clerk of the works’ to oversee building projects

Architect's rendering of the Sharon School multipurpose room and cafeteria.

Architect’s rendering of the Sharon School multipurpose room and cafeteria.

The Board of Education has hired Remington & Vernick Engineers to serve as the district’s “clerk of the works” at $700 a day to review architectural designs and oversee the school construction projects that begin this summer.

Voters have approved spending $18.9 million for renovation and building expansions at the K-3 Sharon School and grade 4-8 Pond Road Middle School to accommodate increasing K-8 enrollment. Under the professional services contract awarded May 28, Remington & Vernick will review the architectural designs to see if cost-reductions are possible, evaluate bids and then oversee construction to ensure the work is done on time and meets contract specifications.

Matt O’Grady, the chairman of the board’s Finance, Facilities and Transportation Committee, said the goal is to save taxpayers money in the long run by bringing in a third party, independent of the architect, to identify cost-efficiencies and keep the project on time and on budget.

“Having professional engineers looking at a live construction project on our behalf is the best protection we can ask for,” O’Grady said. “We want to have an independent voice at the table, not just be told by the professionals that this is what we have to do.  We now have an advocate that we’re paying that’s going to make sure that if there is something we need to be aware of, we are made aware of it.”

The project is being done in two phases. A $2,364,000 contract for Phase 1 of construction has already been awarded to Paul Otto Building Company of Cranford for renovations that include the expansion of the Sharon School kitchen and cafeteria, and the reconfiguration of the Pond Road Middle School library  where space is being converted into three new classrooms. Phase 1 is set to start this month and be completed by the time school opens in September.

“The 21st is the last day (of school) and the bulldozer comes the 24th,” School Business Administrator Bob DeVita told the school board.

Phase 2, which includes a two-story addition with 27 classrooms  and another gym at Sharon School, as well as the expansion of the Pond Road Middle School cafeteria, will go out to bid this month, Schools Superintendent Steve Mayer said. That larger project is expected to be completed by September 2014.

“The objective is to have a professional set of eyes over the summer,” O’Grady told the school board. “It’s for Remington to review bids … and Remington will then come back the following summer and help us with punch list items and assist us with obtaining a clean certificate of occupancy.”

DeVita said the total budget for the clerk of the works is $192,000. Remington Vernick would be on site five days a week this summer to ensure Phase 1 of the renovations is done on time so that the buildings can open in September.

“Once we get through that phase we won’t need a constant presence,” DeVita said June 4. “We will manage them to one day a week until probably the end of May or beginning of June (2014) and then it will go to five days a week again to ensure we hit our target to open the addition in September of 2014.”

At the May 28 meeting, board member Sharon DeVito said that after seeing images of the twisted metal beams of the elementary schools in Moore, Oklahoma destroyed by a recent tornado she was not inclined to entertain any proposals from a clerk of the works that called for using less expensive building materials.

“If you tell me you’re going to save $100,000 by using blue bricks instead of pink bricks that’s fine, but I don’t want the integrity of the structure (affected),” DeVito said.

Both O’Grady and Board President Mike Reca assured DeVito the Remington engineers would not be recommending changes that would jeopardize the integrity of the building, nor would the school board ever agree to go along with that type of cost-cutting.

“This is not to lower the integrity of the project, it is to make sure that any possible savings because of design, etcetera are looked at by a second set of eyes,” O’Grady said. “Part of the package also is to review the bids to help us evaluate them so that we can bring this project in on time and, hopefully, under budget.”

The school board voted 7-0 to award the clerk of the works professional services contract. Board members Carol Boyne and Faith Silvestrov were absent.

In a related action, the Board of Education authorized the renewal of another 12-month lease for five modular classrooms now at Sharon School through August 2014. The monthly rent for the trailers is $8,500 each ($102,00 a year) for a total annual cost $510,00 for all five trailers. The cost of the lease is the same as in 2012, DeVita said.

The lease renewal with M Space Holdings, LLC also gives the district the option to extend the contract six additional months, a contingency plan in case the two-story building addition at Sharon is not finished as expected by September 2014.

The district would like to be able to return the modular classrooms in 2014 because under state law lease payments come from a school district’s operating budget, which siphons funds from educational programs since there is a 2 percent cap on operational spending increases.

Debt service payments for bond sales that financed school construction projects are outside the state cap because local voters directly authorize construction borrowing during public referendums.













































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