School Construction to Proceed While $800,000 Redesign Cost Negotiated

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By Dave Freneaux

    Arkel Anderson Joint Venture, the Contractor building Central’s new schools, has submitted documentation in support of a possible increase of as much as $821,000 in the cost to construct the schools.  The possible increase will not necessarily be paid by the Central Community School System, as the design issues involved appear to be the responsibility of PBK Architects, the firm hired to design the buildings.  The School Board was called to meet Wednesday at 5PM to determine the best course of action to ensure quality construction while minimizing delays and additional costs and protecting the interests of Central’s taxpayers.

     The School Board met first in executive session with attorneys, then in open meeting with the public and representatives of Arkel Anderson Joint Venture.  The Board unanimously voted to issue a “Constructive Change Directive”, which acknowledges that there is a problem but requests that construction proceed while resolution to the issue is negotiated.  The parties agreed that the resolution period would be 30 days.

     Traditionally, design flaws are the financial responsibility of the architects and engineers hired to provide the plans, and often “Errors & Ommissions” insurance policies ultimately protect all parties.  However, the contract to construct the schools is between the School System and Arkel.  The challenge facing the School Board is to negotiate a solution to the issue in which all parties are treated fairly and Central’s taxpayers are protected.  While some of the $821,000 costs are based on the costs of manpower, delays and overtime, approximately $500,000 of that amount is based solely on the increase in the cost of steel that has occurred during the months required to redesign the structural steel plans.


  1. Mike Mannino

    January 27, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Unless there is language in the contract dealing with increases in steel prices or there is extra steel required because of a design issue, they are out of luck. To add to it, we have not seen increases in structural steel prices. Check the prices of metal buildings. They are down to flat. Using that logic though, would they adjust the cost if prices went down ? I doubt it. Building materials such as concrete and steel do fluctuate somewhat and contractors take this into account when bidding, usually adding a contingency in their bids. Would the other bidders have asked for this ? If not, did we actually have a lower bidder and now this one is trying to make up for a lowball bid and the mistake they made on the bid that cost them ? This smells and we should strongly push back and make them produce proof of what they claim. This is why you need people on the school board that are familiar with construction because adders can kill you and contract language needs to be prescriptive to keep the contractor in the box.

  2. kyle

    January 27, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Mike: You hit the nail on the head with this one. Agree with you 100%. An $800,000 mistake? I agree with you…is the low bidder trying to adjust for something that they underbid? Something definitely isn’t right.
    That much of a change to redesign something that effects $800,000 doesn’t seem right. Who’s benefiting? I agree…does our school board know what they’re doing?

    • dave

      January 27, 2011 at 12:14 pm

      Brief “executive summary”. Just my lay person’s interpretation, not to be taken as fact. Bids get awarded, steel plans go to steel subcontractor. Their people identify the plans as “unconstructable” and “unstable”. PBK looks at them and seems like they must have agreed because they redesigned. Meantime the sub could not buy the steel at the time they were supposed to be able to and steel supposedly took several large price increases. Not the sub’s fault the purchase was delayed, so they should be protected. As to how much the steel went up, that should be easily proven by comparing original quotes with actual purchases. Should be no argument there. That is 500k of the 800k. Balance is supposedly costs incurred by contractor for the job getting stalled for steel redesign. Again, probably negotiable. Personal opinion, this all gets paid by architect, but no guarantees.

  3. Mike mannino

    January 27, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    What is really suspicious is this is real close to the amount they lost due to the mistake they made on the bid they turned in. We need to really keep the heat on them about this. That is one hell of a jump in carbon steel prices when I havent seen it in industry and we are usually the first to get hit.

  4. kyle

    January 27, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    So, PBK designs a building as “unconstructable” and “unstable”? What kind of firm are they? Should have stuck with a Louisiana firm instead of a Texas firm! By the way, isn’t our superintendent from Texas? Hmmm…has to make us wonder.

    Mike: Agreed 100%. I was thinking the same thing.

  5. kyle

    January 27, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    By the way, Dave, thanks for letting us know about this. I hate to go here, but the “other paper” didn’t report a thing about this, which is not surprising considering his love for our school board and superintendent. Instead we have to read 2-year old news about the LOOP.

  6. Another Central resident

    January 27, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Thanks for the article. I will be talking with my disctrict school board member about this. I want answers on how an architect/engineer could design a building that in unconstructable. I believe it is time for our superintendent to go. First the audit in regards to possible backroom deals to friends and now this.

    Plus the following was in the Advocate today about Central in the sports section. Hopefully Dave can do a little digging and see what is going on at Central High in regards to missing tests and grades that can put 10 seniors and others elgibility at risk. I don’t want this swept under the rug like so many other things that that our superintendent has done in the past year and half.

    Central appeal denied

    The executive committee denied Central High’s request to extend the deadline to update incomplete grades.

    Central’s appeal stemmed from a math class that was taught by more than one teacher last fall and through the semester’s end Jan. 14.

    Principal Bob Wales told the committee questions about missing tests and papers remain. The class involves 122 students, 10 of whom are seniors who would be ineligible if the incomplete grade is recorded as a failing grade.

    Wales said Central will work to rectify the situation on its own by the Feb. 4 deadline to report final grades.

  7. Mike Mannino

    January 27, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    Hope you are right Dave. But in the event we have to take this on, the School Board should play hardball since we are not the cause of the problem. If we have to pay for mistakes by PBK, whats the point of hiring them to handle ? They are paid to run this therefore should be liable for the mistakes. 800K is not chump change in anybodies book, much less a small system like we have. Thats a lot of money that we want spent on our kids not wasted.

    • dave

      January 27, 2011 at 6:36 pm

      I agree completely.

  8. Mike Mannino

    January 27, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    More info from a board member. This has been known since early November. The design changes would have been of little cost if implemented quickly. However, to keep the timeline on track, the fabrication now has to be expedited. Contractors will charge you big time for expedited services even if they are not busy, just as an excuse to make more money. In the mean time, steel has gone up slightly also adding to the cost. Bottom line, we hired a firm to manage this, they screwed up, and they should absorb the cost. I’m betting we will get hit with many more change orders which I predicted when I saw how low these bids were. Look out, we have some serious overruns coming up and that is going to ignite a firestorm. Everybody needs to start watching this close or its going to get out of hand.

  9. Kyle

    January 27, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    Agreed 100% Mike.

  10. Mike Mannino

    January 27, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Kyle you are starting to scare me !!

  11. Another Central Guest

    January 27, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    I think this is going to be one subject that everyone will agree on. When the tax passed, the Central residents were not expecting it to be treated as an open check book.

    The school board had the opportunity to not use PBK when it was brought up that they were not registered in Louisiana or the registration in the state of Louisiana had expired. They choose to continue to use them.

  12. Mike Mannino

    January 27, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    I agree. This is not an area that passes taxes. I have never voted for one until this because I had faith that we would use every penny in an efficient way. If they screw this up, its over. No more taxes passed, and good luck renewing this one down the road. This is supposed to be a decreasing tax over the term and I dont want to hear a sob story in a couple of years about the need to keep it at maximum levels over the term. Somebody better get a handle on this because if you think people are irritated with things in the CIty Government, wait and see what happens if the school board cant manage their money.

  13. Central Resident

    January 28, 2011 at 8:44 am


    I could not agree more with you on this. When I got my property tax bill my jaw hit the floor! I voted for the tax, too, however when I saw just how much the school taxes went up I could not help thinking of the audit problems, back room deals with Supt. friends, chage- order fiasco. I have no problem paying school taxes IF all funds are spent wisely and benefit the students. I would remind our school board members that they work for US taxpayers and the Supt. works for them.

  14. Amazed

    January 28, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Mike I agree with you 100%. Anyone that has had anything to do with construction knows the general and architect make money on change orders. The general should notice obvious mistakes before a job bid and have the architect make corrections before the bid goes out. Of coarse since these are not always caught and/or not caught (on purpose) the contractors will continue to make considerably more money than their base bid when allowed. Of coarse a time delay is always a good threat for more money immediately. I am amazed that this comes to such a surprise since many of the past and present school board are business owners. Any experienced contractor takes in consideration price increases/decreases (although you will never see a credit). Not sure about steel but in order to get a contractors business usually a job quote is given at bid time and the price stays for a considerabl amount of time. $800,000 and the buiding is just getting started. Don’t be surprised if this figure at least doubles before the end of the job (probably a low conservative figure). I would assume that if the editor of this paper sells a customer an ad package for the next six months and is paid but shortly afterwards his printing maching breaks, paper and ink triples etc, he will have to eat the extra cost without going back to his customer and asking for triple the ad cost or he won’t run their ad. Just not good business.

  15. Kyle

    January 28, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    Yea, Mike. We’re agreeing! Great minds think alike. My question is why is this only reported in CentralSpeaks? Why is any negativity with the school board never reported in Woody’s paper? This fiasco, the audit report, teacher complaints reported in the audit, the school board president not allowing people to speak at meetings, etc. I’m really starting to wonder????!!!!

  16. Mike Mannino

    January 29, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    That I dont know Kyle. All I can say is I dont discriminate. Any part of our government that is wasting tax money needs to be held accountable. Even if someone is a friend of ours and they are an elected official that we feel is not spending our money effectively, we need to call them out on it. Probably even more so. I see too money people blinded by friendships or being related to officials out here.

  17. Kyle

    January 29, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    In a city the size of ours, somebody always knows somebody or is related to somebody, no matter who gets elected. Sometimes people with large families get elected. For example, we have Brownings elected on the school board and as police chief. Not saying there’s anything wrong with them, but big families mean lots of votes.

    You know what I’ve been thinking? Sometimes it’s not the elected people that actually do all the work. The elected officials come to a school board or city council meeting and vote, but a lot of the time, it’s the “non-elected” people in our school system and city that do a lot of the work and get overlooked and don’t receive the credit they deserve. I’m talking about secretaries, assistants, finance managers, the guys fixing the potholes or cutting the grass, cafeteria workers, etc. (all the people behind the scenes).

  18. Mike Mannino

    January 29, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Without a doubt Kyle. And I think most officials will admit it.

    AS far as realatives, no problem with them supporting their family candidate. But they need to keep an open mind and keep a closer eye on them than we can, and call them out when they are doing something that is not in the best interest of the city. Or tell them when they are doing something that has the appearance of a conflict though they shouldnt have to.

    I know that at least one candidate in teh last election was approached about getting into commercial Real Estate out here and he turned it down to avoid anything being said, Could have made a lot of money. My brother is in commercial construction. Does work for all 3 of the bidders on the High School and usually wins his bids not only on price but quailty of his work. I didnt know this till after the bids came in, but he refused to bid on the Schools though he received a bid package from all 3, because he didnt want to put me in that position.

    Now thats ethics and integrity. Both of those cases would have been legal but both would have not been right.

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