The Hempfield Area School District’s construction project continues to add layers of problems without ever starting anything.
The project was conceived as a “revitalization” of the Senior High School. It would bring the old structure up to today’s needs and provide improvements to the athletic facilities, including a swimming pool package.
Planning has been going on for many years. In November 2020, the idea of a feasibility study was first presented to board members which would look at construction or renovation options. It was $200,000 and took about a year to complete after approval in December 2020.
Then there was the planning. Then there was the design. Then there was bidding, calendaring, and a plan of what to do with the ninth graders while construction continued. But construction will start in August 2023 and construction will continue for three years and… well, not so fast.
When bids opened last month, the already high budget of $132 million increased from $16 million to $18 million, to a potential $150 million. Labor and supply issues were blamed. All offers were rejected and construction was postponed to no later than the spring of 2024.
So what’s the next idea in this escalating endeavor? Add another layer of management.
The Board of Directors is now considering appointing a representative of the owner. This is a professional from outside the region who will serve as the project manager. No, not the project manager. This is a completely different function and will actually be involved.
The American Bar Association speaks of the position as an “emerging role” in the industry and a reflection of the “increasing technical complexity and economic risks associated with modern construction projects.” She also notes the ability of representatives to “expand their range of services to sell more services to their clients.”
Hempfield’s board is looking to the position as a way to stem the growing influx of money.
“The owner’s representative will help us protect our tax dollars and get this project back on track,” said Board Member Vince D. Augustine, Chairman of the Buildings and Grounds Committee.
He had called for the appointment of an owner’s representative earlier and was overruled.
The desire to have someone advocate for the needs of the region is understandable. But the board actually includes layers and layers of management, legal professionals, and the SitelogIQ architect — in addition to the board members themselves. Is another professional needed?
One of the reasons I bring this up is definitely the end result. Owner representatives often receive a percentage of the project cost. With costs as high as floodwaters already, would adding a percentage or two help keep costs down?
The argument here is that paying an actor can prevent raises elsewhere.
But the excesses in this project must be a foregone conclusion at this stage. Initial estimates were $97 million and are now exceeding that by 50%.
Currently, the Board does not need a representative to monitor spending on this renovation. Taxpayers do it.