The MSAD 28 School Board and members of the Middle School Building Committee unanimously approved a $353,784 change order to the Camden-Rockport Middle School construction project on Aug. 29.

School Superintendent Maria Libby said Aug. 30 that would come from a combination of value-engineering cuts, which total approximately $190,000, as well as the project's contingency plan.

The money represented by the change order will be used to support a 400-foot retaining wall on the Knowlton Street structure using lightweight cellular concrete fill. The original plan involved using crushed stone instead, but upon conducting soil tests and boring into the property's grounds, engineers reported that a layer of clay underneath would have too much pressure placed on it by the weight of the stone. As a result, they estimated a period of six weeks would be necessary to allow the wall to settle before proceeding with the project.

The order was presented to the board by architect Tyler Barter of Oak Point Associates. He said that some of the advantages of the lightweight cellular concrete were that it could be poured easily, would not place as much weight on the clay deposits and would keep the project on schedule.

A memo sent to the school board on Aug. 28 outlined the proposed change order and explained factors which contributed to abandoning the less expensive option of crushed stone:

Oak Point added that the lightweight material would improve the performance of the building structure, which is estimated to cost approximately $28 million when completed.

Although the crushed stone was initially chosen to reduce overall costs, Oak Point said in the memo that it would likely include a greater construction contract as a result of the six-week waiting period while the retaining wall settled.

A potential change order sent to the district on Aug. 28 by Ledgewood Construction, the project's construction company, estimates the cost of the lightweight material at $277,489. The estimate also includes a $60,000 allowance for temporary heat and cover during the construction period, which would only be expended if needed.

"What's not so clear in reading the memo is was there a point in time when the engineering team said 'maybe this option is actually not going to work the way it was intended'… and was some of the design work potentially not correct?" asked Building Committee member John Scholz at the Aug. 29 meeting.

Barter said that no one from Oak Point nor R.W. Gillespie & Associates, who evaluated the lightweight option, found any deficiencies in the initial design. Libby said that in speaking with a representative of Ledgewood she was informed that the six-week delay incurred by using the crushed stone would likely impact the availability of workers when the job continued, in the event that they were called to other job sites during the interim.

Building Committee member Bob Falciani, who also serves on the Camden Select Board, asked Barter if the potential risk associated with using the crushed stone in the original option was simply a scheduling risk. Barter agreed that it was primarily a schedule risk, but the delay could impact the overall construction timeline and carry additional contractor costs.

"The risk of scheduling rests with the contractor [Ledgewood] and not the school board….It's not the owner's responsibility to manage contractor's risks," said Falciani.

Before a vote was taken on the change order, building committee member Will Gartley made an amendment that the order be approved as written, with the provision that items on the proposed value-engineering lists (e.g. optional equipment for the school) not be removed from the plan prior to receiving a work schedule and cost estimate from the contractors. The members of the committee then voted unanimously to approve the work order as amended.

"It makes me nervous that we're so early in the process and we've already got a big change order," said school board member Carole Gartley prior to the board voting.

"Historical data has not proven to be completely accurate with this project, but on a typical job we usually hit something suitable to this early on — that's where our biggest unknowns are — and then it kind of evens out from there," said Barter.

"You said you've never exceeded a contingency," said school board member Patrick McCafferty.

"We haven't," said Barter.

The school board voted unanimously to approve the change order.

The new Camden-Rockport Middle School is expected to be completed by the start of the 2020-2021 academic year. The next meeting of the MSAD 28 School Board is at 7 p.m. on Sept. 29 at the Camden-Rockport Elementary School.