Greater Albany Public Schools students will have to wait a bit longer to get a look at the new Meadow Ridge Elementary School. Project director David McKay informed the school board on Monday that delays had piled up enough to push the school's planned January opening back to a later date.
Todd Construction was awarded the contract in March 2018 after submitting the lowest bid. A delay in wetlands permits from the Army Corps set construction back at the start of the project. Then, McKay said, there were issues surrounding scheduling with Todd Construction.
“Although we have had good results and experiences with this contractor in the past, they did not start the project strong,” McKay wrote in a memo to Superintendent Melissa Goff. “Despite having three additional months for planning, they exhibited difficulty in producing the required master schedule and other important administrative deliverables.”
In response to Monday's news, Todd Construction released a statement from Vice President Ken Dixon, which read in part, "As the Democrat-Herald reported in late 2018, Christmas 2019 has always been the most likely timeframe for Meadow Ridge occupancy. The adverse impact of more than four months’ start-up delay simply cannot be overstated.
"It wasn’t the fault of anyone on the project team — but imagine if you planned a family picnic for July 15 and the park finally gave permission for November 1. We lost prime spring building weather in exchange for one of the toughest winters Albany has seen in years," the statement continued.
According to McKay, HMK — the company managing the project — received the first acceptable schedule from Todd Construction on Aug. 15 of last year.
“It has become increasingly evident the last four to six months that the contractor is unable to prosecute their schedule as planned,” McKay said. “Numerous activities are slipping to later dates.”
The building was scheduled to be substantially complete — meaning the last of the work could be completed within 45 days — by January, after the initial delay cause by wetland permitting. McKay told the school board Monday that one update from Todd Construction shows that “critical activities” on the project jumped from 101 to 218. The jump, McKay said, meant that 46% of all remaining tasks were considered critical, and to have more than 30% of tasks labeled as such is considered to be high risk.
“The extended startup delay left our local mid-valley subcontractors with schedules they didn’t expect that conflicted with other work. Now they are trying to respond to Meadow Ridge while the district simultaneously constructs three additional school projects, several of which are due to open in September," Dixon's statement read. “We all look at our schedules and suddenly everything is on the critical path. It’s not ideal. It’s not all controllable by project staff. But we are working through it and we are confident the decisions being made are for the best."
McKay said HMK has been in contact with Todd Construction about the delays but still felt the opening of the school should be postponed.
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“We have had numerous communications with the contractor regarding this situation,” he said. “They have been unable to offer an objective data to indicate they can successfully turn this around.”
McKay said multiple factors contributed to the delay, including normal design errors and omissions, the Pacific Northwest construction boom and what HMK felt was a lack of experience in Todd Construction’s leadership team.
Dixon at Todd Construction took exception to McKay's characterization of its leadership team.
“We assigned a strong team to Meadow Ridge because we knew it would be a tough project," Dixon said in his statement. "Our project manager is the grandson of the company founder and has been in construction for 27 years. We assigned two full-time construction superintendents — one managing overall project operations and one focusing on self-performed work. They have 68 years’ experience between them. And our company President Brent Schafer is on site every week making sure our efforts are focused."
The statement also noted that Todd Construction considers subcontractors, designers and the program manager at Meadow Ridge to be on the same team.
"We are all working hard together for the same thing," it said. "Providing the best school possible for the community."
The school board thanked HMK for alerting it to the issue early and members said they appreciated McKay’s honesty.
According to GAPS district spokesperson Ben Brock, the earliest Meadow Ridge could open, based on recommendations from HMK, would be Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. The district, he said, will be reaching out to the community served by Meadow Ridge for suggestions on how to move forward.