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Construction progress frustrates officials

Madison Mathews • Jul 5, 2012 at 2:28 PM

School officials voiced their frustration Monday night on the lack of progress being made to complete the massive construction project at Science Hill High School.

“We’ve had a lot of promises with regards to summer activities and we’re trying to hold everybody to their promises,” Supervisor of Instruction and Facilities Dave Chupa said as he addressed the Johnson City Board of Education. “We’re a little bit frustrated with the finishing up of Science Hill. We’ve had numerous promises on that and it seems like once the (certificate of occupancy) was received, then folks kind of walked away and we continue to do punch lists and check punch lists. Hopefully, here in the next week we’ll get some major action to try to get it completed.”

Chattanooga’s EMJ Corp. is the contractor on the $23 million construction project, which includes four new buildings: administrative offices, a 9th Grade Academic Building, a dining hall and a multipurpose gymnasium.

The certificate of occupancy for each building has been received, but Chupa said that is what has led to most of the problems with completion. Once those certificates were received, the subcontractors more or less walked away.

While weather played a factor in the delays, Chupa said most of the issues have been with subcontractors.

“We were at the last week of school before we were finally able to get to the gym and now everything is sort of, ‘Let’s put it off till summer so we don’t have to deal with students being here.’ Here we are halfway through the summer and there’s still nothing happening. We just have got to have it finished so we can move on,” he said.

Chupa said he was told by EMJ that they would have the project completed by the end of June.

With July 4 one day away and more than 35 items left to be completed on the punch list — which includes the installation of tile and window glass, as well as general cleaning and repair of the academic building — school officials aren’t sure if the project will be completed by the time students hit the hallways next month.

Board member Tim Belisle asked if there was anything the board could do in order to motivate the contractor to complete the project.

Tommy Burleson, the city’s construction agent, said there was a considerable amount of money being held, and they can decide whether they want to reinstate liquidated damages.

That is a decision that will likely have to be made by the City Commission.

“I would like to see us be aggressive. These guys have jerked us around, just quite honestly, on getting this thing finished for a long, long time, and I’d like to see us be pretty aggressive to see if we can’t get them motivated and get it completed,” Belisle said.

EMJ faces penalty costs in excess of $40,000. Once the certificate of occupancy was received, penalties stopped.

Chupa said if liquidated damages are reinstated, the penalty costs will increase based on the amount of time that has gone by since the certificate of occupancy was received.

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