Lebo high school change orders could spark litigation

Published May 16, 2013 at 8:54 am (Updated May 16, 2013 at 8:54 am)

There were signs that certain change orders for Mt. Lebanon’s high school renovation project could trigger litigation at the May 13 school board discussion meeting. Of particular concern was a $75,000 item related to winterization performed by general contractor Nello Construction.

According to project manager Tom Berkebile, the change order involved costs associated with masonry work during the winter months. “Nello submitted a significant number of change orders early in the year,” he explained. “This was primarily based on the initial timetable when Nello put its costs together.” Berkebile added that he did not anticipate unforeseen costs on that scale in the future, despite the fact that some future work would be exposed to the elements during the winter.

“I cannot believe the contractor did not include any winterization costs for a four-year project,” said board member Dan Remely. He requested more detailed information about the change order or that it be removed from the agenda for the May 20 school board meeting.

The district’s solicitor, Tom Peterson, advised any detailed discussion regarding potential litigation or claims against contractors take place in executive session. He said approving change orders would not impact the district’s ability to seek redress in the future. “Approving these items settles the issue of payment by the district for work the contractor performed. It does not address the cause of any issues,” Peterson said.

To date the project has used around 24 percent of its contingency budget. Project manager Bekebile estimated about 50 percent of the work has been completed and 42 percent billed.

School board president Elaine Cappucci emphasized that project costs remained under control. She said the reason the public has seen so many change orders is because the administration is identifying specific items in the interest of transparency. Ordinarily a project of this magnitude would see fewer change orders but for larger dollar amounts, she explained.

Cappucci concluded, “in terms of changes made to the design during the project: work is done, the change orders come to us, we pay for the work. Any discussions regarding who is responsible are reserved for executive session as items for pending litigation.”

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