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Mount Greylock Building Committee Discusses Reasons Behind 'Change Orders'
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
03:36AM / Friday, November 10, 2017
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Work continues Wednesday on the exterior of the new three-story academic wing.


Exterior work progresses on the new construction at Mount Greylock Regional School.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock School Building Committee recently further clarified the concept of "change orders" that have begun to affect the building project's budget in a modest way.
 
At its most recent meeting, Building and School Committee member Al Terranova asked the district's owner's project manager to clarify the purpose of the orders.
 
"It doesn't mean we're expanding the project," Terranova said. "What we're doing is responding to recommendations from the contractor and the project manager and we have to make a decision on it to move forward.
 
"We're not making the rooms bigger or the project bigger. We're responding to things that come up during construction. People hear 'change order,' and certain people say, 'What are you doing, building the Taj Mahal up there?' "
 
Trip Elmore of Dore & Whittier Project Management, the project's owner's program manager, explained that change orders are necessary when unforeseen circumstances and costs arise that must be handled in order to keep the project the district already approved on track.
 
"We are not changing the size of the building, absolutely," Elmore said. "That is set with the state. … There may be changes because existing conditions change. We may not have figured everything out when the drawing were set and something needed to change.
 
"What we may have assumed at the point we were bidding the job may not work, and, therefore, we have to change something to make the building functional for the 50 years it is planned for. There are myriad reasons why something may change."
 
The $64.7 million addition/renovation project has contingency funds built into the budget to handle such unforeseen costs. About $2 million is in an owner's contingency line item, and $1 million is in the construction manager's contingency line item.
 
At last week's meeting, the School Building Committee approved the first distributions from the two funds. Contingency spending was discussed at the panel's October meeting, but the actual approvals were voted on Nov. 2.
 
"We have a contingency in our budget, $2 million, outside the guaranteed maximum price issued to us by [construction manager] Turner Construction," Elmore explained. "Then there's another contingency that is in the GMP, which is Turner's contingency to deliver the building as they agreed to. The owner's contingency picks up design flaws, picks up changes in scope and make pick up existing conditions that arise that no one could foresee. That's the $2 million.
 
The GMP contingency, which started at $1,080,000, that is for Turner's use. … The owner has an obligation to release those funds to Turner unless there's some egregious error we think is unjustified for them to use that for."
 
The changes before the committee last week fell into both categories. From the CM's contingency, the committee was asked to approve funds to pay for work that was estimated but not bid at the time the GMP was set. On the owner's side, there was a change in flooring material in one section of the school, a change from manually operated to electrically operated partitions in the gymnasium and a higher-than-anticipated cost for installing the tile floor in the locker room.
 
Altogether, the changes approved last week reduced the owner's contingency by just less than $20,000 and the construction manager's contingency by about $88,000, or less than 3.5 percent of the total of the two contingency line items.
 
The School Building Committee is keeping a close eye on the contingency accounts, both out of a desire to be a good shepherd of taxpayer funds and a goal of having enough in the contingency bucket to fund a $700,000 parking lot renovation.
 
The Mount Greylock School Committee this winter will have to decide whether it wants to pull the trigger on the parking lot project while the Cold Spring Road campus still is an active job site; although the new academic wing is set to be occupied in April 2018, demolition on the old academic wings is slated to continue through the summer.
 
Everyone agrees the parking lot needs work, but that and any other additional "site work," like athletic fields renovation, would not be eligible for reimbursement from the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
 
It also is not known how much of the cost of change orders will be reimbursed by the MSBA. SBC member and Williamstown Selectman Hugh Daley asked Elmore to forecast how much the state will participate in those costs, but Elmore said it is much too early to know.
 
"The MSBA won't tell you on any changes what they're going to reimburse or not until the end of the job," Elmore said. "They used to do that quarterly. Now they do it at the end of the job.
 
"I can guarantee it won't all be reimbursed. For example, there's a [furniture, fixtures and equipment] maximum. There's a cost per square foot maximum. There are a lot of things that make it extremely difficult to forecast. But they will reimburse some things."
 
Elmore stressed to the committee that the change orders it sees will be the minimum cost needed to accomplish the district's goals.
 
"Your representatives, the architect, the OPM and the construction manager, are on your side of the fence," Elmore said. "They're not an adversary, unlike what a general contractor might be. They don't benefit from change orders. In fact, changes add more work for them for the same costs. They're your advocate to get the best price.
 
"By the time it comes to the district for signature, we've all agreed we can recommend the value of the change, and, therefore, we're making a recommendation that you can accept it."
 
In other business, Turner's representative told the committee that the project remains on schedule overall, although one portion of the building will be delayed. The school had hoped to have its gymnasium available for use as early as this month in time for the start of preseason for basketball and wrestling.
 
On Thursday, Principal Mary MacDonald told the committee the gym will not be on line until early January.
 
"Part of it has to do with managing changes that the owner requested for the gym," MacDonald said. "There were some adjustments to the floor that were made. We put in badminton lines, which are a significant part of our wellness curriculum. Other adjustments were we were looking to have mat hoists for wrestling — remember we don't have all the extra storage space we used to have. One hoist was installed, but we wanted to put in a second. Originally, we were going to wait until summer, but that would mean bringing in a second crew.
 
"We felt more confident of not running into surprises by choosing this time frame, and it wasn't chosen lightly. We have places for basketball and wrestling to practice and compete until we have the gym. We have been actively using other sections of the school and the outside for the PE program. … If we get snow, that's wonderful for PE. We have snow shoes."
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