Thursday, April 28, 2011

Trib: Mt. Lebanon board awaits answers on high project bids (Updated)

Update 2011-04-28 4:20 PM: Added Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article regarding school board meeting

Update 2011-04-28 11:25 AM: be sure to also see Dan Miller’s comments on the fire-safety issues mentioned in the Tribune-Review article.

Mt. Lebanon school board members didn't get many answers this week on why bids came in much higher than expected on the high school renovation project, but they pledged to get the project back on budget when it is re-bid later this year.

The board unanimously rejected the first round of bids Monday night during a solemn and angry meeting.

"From this point forward, we need you to come up with as many scenarios as you can with this project," board president Josephine Posti told architect Tom Celli and P.J. Dick project manager John Taormina. "There are no sacred cows."

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13 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How valid is the list of 75 ? What if the Remely claims about the validity of the fire code determinations by the Muni are absolutely and totally false ? Not one SB member or the Super questioned his accusations. If the claims are proven false, District public officials will demonstrate once again that they lack the necessary credibility to function responsibly.

Bill Lewis

April 29, 2011 8:46 AM  
Blogger Bill Matthews said...

It is astonishing that a project that has been so heavily value engineered, right sized and squeezed over many, many months could have +/- $20 million of stuff taken out in a matter of weeks. Doubly amazing is that the architect has identified 75 items to look at in just a few days after the bids were received.

If there are now things we do not need because we cannot afford them --- then we did not need them in the first place.

This in part characterizes much of the struggle all along. The District leadership made its case for the design on what was “needed” in a renovated high school and it was pure coincidence that the needs fit so neatly in the as long as it does not trigger any of the referendum limits where we would have to ask the community if this is what we really want bucket.

I do not doubt the Board has tried its best at this project, the difficulty they have had is with the architect and the resultant advice and counsel. I appreciate the many hours board members have dedicated to the renovation and the potency of their resolve for our kids’ education. The Board truly believed in its chosen course.

With that in mind, one of the things I told the Board on Monday was that:

People believe what they believe, because they believe it. If they didn’t believe it, they would believe something else.

I am asking at this time, that the Board and Administration do some truly penetrating analysis, maybe even some myth busting, to make the project what it should be, not what it is.

Haste is the devil at this point.

(Note to self: It appears David Huston was right when we selected Celli-Flynn Brennan. He predicted, based on previous CFB work, that the project would be delayed and over budget.)

April 29, 2011 9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This sounds like a small but prime example of how *gold plated* this HS project seems to be...I overheard a sub-contracter explain that his bid for custom designed (not standard) and spec'd musical instrument storage cases for the HS were $2,500 each....seems a standard design would have been less than half of that.

Bill Lewis

April 29, 2011 11:56 AM  
Blogger E. T. Gillen said...

Bill Lewis, maybe they are in there for all the proponents who are musicians. Hmmm, that comment can apply to several levels.
Bill Matthews- (Note to School Board: It appears David Huston was right when we selected Celli-Flynn Brennan. He predicted, based on previous CFB work, that the project would be delayed and over budget.)
Also, as you said before, Bill Matthews,"To understand from where we have come, is to understand where we are."

Sobering reality of the Mt. Lebanon High School Renovation January 15, 2009 Blog Lebo

April 29, 2011 12:28 PM  
Blogger Matt C. Wilson said...

Bill Lewis,

I am not a fire inspector, but the safety reasons behind having all of the windows operable (with no "indicator stickers" seem obvious to me for a couple reasons.

One - in a smoky room, are you going to be able to see these indicator markers?

Two - assuming you have 20-30 students evacuating a room, how quickly are you going to be able to get them all down a ladder if you're doing it single file?

Three - given that the firefighters are carrying axes and such and are more interested in doing the evacuation quickly, they're going to put ladders on all the windows anyway and then smash them open. So now you've got students evacuating through the glass rather than the full window aperture. I haven't seen the windows, but a) is that large enough a hole and b) you better watch for broken glass while you're shimmying through.

Just some thoughts.

April 29, 2011 3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a quote from the recent District's 4-page, 4-color propaganda piece insert in the *mtl* magazine about the HS...on the front page...delivered to our homes before bid opening :

"This project is the culmination of years of focused deliberation, investigation and collaboration by the school board, administration, staff, and community. This building, with this design, offers the most educational value for our students and provides our community with a valuable asset -- DR. TIMOTHY STEINHAUER, Superintendent, Mt. Lebanon School District."

REALLY, DR. STEINHAUER ? Have another glass of Kool-aid ! And how about you personally reimbursing the taxpayers for the cost of this monsterous piece of fiction. And I'm really impressed that you put your name and prefix in all-caps...real classy.

Bill Lewis

April 30, 2011 11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And here's a suggestion to the Muni and *mtl* staff who I know view postings and comments on this blog...the last "community update" on the HS project was in the March issue, I believe.

That "update" stressed building safety features and quoted the Principal, now also promoted to an Ass't. Super, as saying "I'm thrilled with the final product...I think it's a wonderful product of cooperation of our staff, the architects and the municipality.".

In the interests of fair & balanced reporting, a journalistic principle to which I'm sure the Muni subscribes, I ask that in your next *mtl* issue you "update" the public with the following :

1) report on how the District publicly challenged, after bid opening, the applicability of required fire safety codes for the project in hopes of saving $1 million in compliance costs...do a little investigative reporting to see how this happened, who was behind it and the outcome. OK ?

2) "thrilled with the final product" doesn't comport with the fact that the mean construction bid of 6 bidders was $109 million vs. a current cost estimate and budget of only $86 million, and repeated claims by several SB members that they were confident the construction bids would come in at an amount that would result in the total project costs being at roughly $95 million. Reducing total project costs to an implicit construction cost would result in : $95 million total project costs - ($5.5 million asbestos abatement + $20 million *soft* costs) = $ 74.5 million construction costs....just think of that : $109 mean bid - $ 74.5 million predicted by SB *experts* = $34.5 million difference in reality vs. what the public was led to likely expect...a 32% difference ! How "thrilling" is that Lebo citizens & taxpayers ? Yeah *mtl*, make sure you report and explain what went wrong here also, all in the name of fair & balanced reporting...right ?

Bill Lewis

May 01, 2011 10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. Did anybody catch the *SB math* mistakes I intentionally made above to see if anybody, particularly *mtl* folks, checks anything they're told about the HS project ?

Well, to set the record straight, in item 2 above, the $74.5 million number should be only $69.5 million, the $34.5 million figure should be $39.5 million and the median construction cost bid of $109 million is actually 56.7% OVER what several SB members were telling us it would very likely be !

Kind of grabs ya, doesn't it....

Bill Lewis

May 01, 2011 12:45 PM  
Blogger E. T. Gillen said...

What did one SOS member say to you at a municipal meeting, Bill? "It is all minutiae!"
As you always say, "The devil is in the details."
The Primary is May 17. Vote at the polls instead of with your feet (if it is not too late.)
Elaine Gillen

May 01, 2011 1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In about 30 minutes from now the SB will consider options (deducts & redesigns) to reduce the construction cost of their "problem"...they need to reduce costs by $16 million or more from bid results.

In July of last year, the District revealed only 7 delete options as remote possibilities..just 7..and they posted them on their website. That posted list has been removed.

In her July 24, 2010 "Center Court" blog, Ms. Posti, now the Pres., said the following about those 7 delete alternates : "The elimination of any of these items would have a significant impact on our students and those who use our facilities. The sooner we're able to go to bid, the more likely we are to enjoy a favorable bid climate and the less likely we are to need to consider these alternatives.".

Unknown to the general public, the architects, with obvious SB knowledge and approval, subsequently prepared an additional list of at least 17 more delete alternates to be included in the bid packages. The existance of these additional 17 bid alternates were revealed to the public only in the bid opening results. Interestingly, the cumulative total deduct value of the 24 delete alternates on average was only about $5 million in construction cost savings.

If, according to now Pres. Posti, any of the original 7 of the ultimate 24 deduct alternates "would have a significant impact...", and all 24 added up to only $5 million of a required $16 million or more, what are we now about to hear from a SB and design team that has no credibility whatsoever ?

Bill Lewis

May 02, 2011 6:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No sacred cows, Ms. Posti?
Is that an udder I see underneath building C?
David Huston

May 03, 2011 11:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ms. Posti is not willing to compromise demolishing building C.
That is her sacred cow.
David Huston

May 03, 2011 1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Posti must be smarter than the experts on the CAC and the district's structural engineer; that goes for Cappucci too who would not revisit Building C. Remely also said we need to get rid of Building C.

Our staff had a large amount of input into the HS. Did anyone hear what the teachers think of keeping Building C?

John Ewing

May 03, 2011 11:08 PM  

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