Accelify Blog

Blind, Deaf Schools Project to Be Cut Back (OH)

August 16, 2010

The proposed redesign of the Ohio schools for the deaf and blind will be substantially scaled back to save money, and a provision for union-only labor might be jettisoned now that state officials have discovered that it likely added to the price.

"I think all options have to be on the table,&quot ; Richard Murray, director of the Ohio School Facilities Commission, said yesterday.

The commission will spend four to six weeks trying to determine how to repackage the North Side project to fit its $28million general-construction budget. The project was originally scheduled for completion in 2009, but the latest delay – caused last month when construction bids came in 41 percent above estimates – means the revamped campus is unlikely to be done by the end of the 2011-12 school year.

After a commission spokesman initially said that the "project labor agreement" that Murray instituted played no role in the bid overruns, Murray said yesterday that interviews with prime contractors now refute that: Subcontractors stayed away from the project, and their lack of participation likely drove up the price.

"The PLA may be contributing to this," he said.

The lowest bids for work at the two schools, which are separated by a ravine at Morse Road and N. High Street, were $11.4million over the state’s $28 million estimate to construct the buildings, the major expense in the total $37.1million project. The residential buildings were almost 50 percent over estimates, Murray said.

Prime contractors probably withheld their best quotes because they were getting few subcontracting bids and knew their estimates were far above those of architect SHP Leading Design, Murray said. State law requires bids to be thrown out if all are more than 10 percent over budget, so contractors did not want to tip their hand in this round.

The fact that residential structures were involved in a public-school project requiring prevailing union wages probably also added to costs, Murray said.
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"This is a prevailing-wage job site, by state law – not our choice," Murray said. "Nobody, except Ohio State University and the university campuses, builds residential structures with prevailing wage."

Murray said it wasn’t the "finest moment in estimation." SHP already has identified about $2.8 million in cost reductions, he said.

The union official that co-signed the project labor agreement blamed SHP for much of the overruns.

The design called for 97 types of door handles in the blind school, so children could learn how to recognize and open different ones, said Pasquale "Pat" Manzi, executive secretary-treasurer of the Columbus/Central Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council.

"If you turn the architect loose, you don’t know what you’re going to get," Manzi said.

SHP project manager Josh Predovich referred all questions to the commission.