July 18, 2012 - Goodrich- The bleachers will stay.
The new Goodrich bleachers. (click for larger version)
By a 5-2 vote at a special meeting on Monday night, the school board accepted $30,000 in compensation in exchange for Graham, Texas-based Southern Bleacher Company leaving the new bleachers where they are—a six-foot deviation from the original plans.
School board members David Cramer, Jeff Gardner, Doug Tetmeyer, Niki Wiederman and Linda Jackson voted yes to accept the deal. Board members Skip Schultz and Tim Zirnhelt voted no.
School officials have been grappling for about a month with an apparent miscalculation in the placement of the new bleachers at the football complex. In February 2011 district voters approved a $15.4 million bond extension to be used for educational facilities, technology, athletics and energy upgrades. Architects from Fanning Howey, along with construction management services representatives from Wolgast Corporation, were hired by the district last year to design and oversee the projects. Construction has been ongoing since the summer of 2011, with many of the bids for projects awarded including the football field, bleachers and concessions stands.
At a cost of $425,000, Southern Bleacher Company was awarded the bid for construction of the 1,500-seat capacity facility for the home side of the stadium. The plans required a six-foot distance between the bleachers and a fence which borders the track surrounding the football field. The opening—detailed in the approved plans—was needed to accommodate a walkway for fans, say school officials. The placement issue was discovered last month by a school official who just happened to be at the football complex observing the construction process.
Since the discovery of the error, work on the project has come to a halt prompting new district Superintendent Scott Bogner to call Monday's special meeting.
"It's a bad mistake," said Bogner, in his first school board meeting after taking over for John Fazer on July 1. "There should have been a walkway (in front of the bleachers). I know the board is not happy with a $30,000 settlement. When we first found out about the mistake, a decision should have been made right then. I understand the concern —keep in mind we are trying to do what is the right thing."
"We need to move forward," he added. "We'll have a timeline for the completion of the project. The best laid plans don't always happen. It needs to be resolved. When people walk in for the first time they are going to be blown away when they see the new facility.".
Trustee Chip Schultz voted no on accepting the settlement.
"The community voted and paid for the bond," he said. "Seventy-five percent (of those I spoke with) want that moved. We are giving in to Southern Bleacher—it's one season. It's a matter of principle."
Linda Jackson, school board vice president, did not see it that way.
"I say leave them (the bleachers) where they are at—we can explain the mistake was made. The usage (of the bleachers) we have is the best for everyone—the fans can still watch the game at the end of the football field. The bleachers are close to where they were in the past."
Doug Tetmeyer was ready to get moving forward on the project.
"Yes, we are being blackmailed on this project," said Tetmeyer. "I was all for doing it right (moving the bleachers) I don't see Southern Bleachers being cooperative. I really don't care about their (Southern Bleacher) reputation—this could drag on for years."
School officials said that following the discovery of the error, lawyers for Southern Bleacher and Wolgast would determine just how and when the issue is gong to be rectified. To locate the bleachers back to the planned location would require dismantling the structure and pouring new footings. There was no indication just how long or when that could be accomplished, thus possibly jeopardizing the football and track seasons that play in the facility.
Phil Hartman, educational facilities director for Wolgast, attended the special meeting. Wolgast Corporation is the construction management services company which was hired by the district last year to design and oversee the project.
"A mistake was made," said Hartman. "It will be paid for by the insurance company—that's why it has taken so long to move forward."
Hartman also told the board a time-line to complete the project would be provided following the settlement.
The controversy is not the first for Wolgast during the school construction.
In May, Wolgast along with architects from Fanning Howey, reported the school construction project was $1.1 million over budget. The district, along with Wolgast and Fanning Howey, remedied the issue, but not before dipping into an $800,000 contingency account and cutting back on some of the construction projects.