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West Side school site ready for building

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Construction on Kanawha County's "school of the future" could start any day now.

Groundbreaking on the new Edgewood-area elementary school building will depend on the weather, Chuck Wilson, facilities director for Kanawha County Schools, said Wednesday in a phone interview.

The ground surrounding the building pad - the actual place where the school will sit - and the road leading to the site need to be dry or frozen, Wilson said. Contractors could face problems if the ground is wet.

"What they don't want to do is to come into the site with heavy equipment and create damage to the road base or ruts, things they have to pay to repair," Wilson said. "They're going to be looking for ideal conditions to get onto the building pad."

The building is scheduled for completion by February 2014. Wilson said the contract was bid  with a 12-month construction calendar in mind, so the project is a little ahead of schedule.

The school will be located a little less than a mile off Wood Road near Edgewood Country Club and will be reached by a nearly mile-long access road.

Adam Krason is an architect with ZMM Architects and Engineers, a private firm also working on the school. On Monday, Krason said the access road should be passable by the end of the week, and he expected construction to start soon.

The building is designed for curriculum based on group learning and technology. Classrooms for older students can hold 40 to 50 and are designed for project-based learning. Smaller rooms off the main rooms provide space for presentations.

The entire project is expected to cost roughly $22 million. Kanawha County selected bids for the construction in September. Scott Depot-based G&G Builders will do the bulk of the general trades work - involving masonry, steel and concrete - at a cost of a little more than $6.8 million.

The project was awarded to multiple prime bidders, Wilson said: more than one company is responsible for the work. Although G&G needs to get on site first, contractors conducting the electrical and plumbing work also want to be there as soon as possible. Those companies want to install infrastructure in the ground before work starts on the building's foundation.

Awarding bids to several different companies can reduce the price of a project, but it can also lead to issues. Any building contractor needs to bring equipment across the site to get to the building pad, Wilson said. Because another company did the site preparation, problems could occur if any trailers or trucks damage the site itself.

"If they tear it up, the first contractor will want the second contractor to pay for it," Wilson said.

With a single-contractor project, Wilson said everyone knows who's to blame if something goes wrong. There can be a lot of finger pointing if there's a problem on a project involving multiple companies, he said.

There's already been finger pointing when it comes to paying for the school.  

Originally estimated at about $12 million, those site preparation increases left the project cost closer to $22 million. When the project was announced in 2010, Kanawha County school officials expected to come up with about $3.7 million. It's slated to pay closer to $12 million at this point.

The state School Building Authority, the entity charged with divvying state funds for school construction projects, is providing a little less than $10 million for the project. That's $1 million more than originally allocated, to the displeasure of several authority board members.

In September the authority approved the additional funding for the project, but several authority board members chastised the Kanawha County Board of Education. Those authority members think the Kanawha board limited its ability to get more local money when voters approved a cap on the amount of extra property taxes the board can receive.

Kanawha Board President Pete Thaw has repeatedly said the cap helps Kanawha County taxpayers, and questioned why the authority board thought the Kanawha board should increase taxes on its residents.  

The school system is in the process of completing all of the paperwork necessary to move forward on the project, Wilson said.

"You may not see that out there on the site, but we're keeping the U.S. Postal Service very busy," Wilson joked.

Students attending J.E. Robins and Watts elementary schools on the West Side hill will move to the Edgewood-area school once it opens. The older schools will close at that time.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.


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