Union School District -- stock

The plan to address soil issues at the new Union R-XI elementary school seems to have worked.

The next step is doing more of it.

Navigate Building Solutions, the district’s project manager for the work, provided an update on the soil issues for board of education members Thursday afternoon at a special board meeting.

Since ground has been broken at the site of the new school located between Prairie Dell Road and Progress Parkway near East Central College, there have been issues. Dirt was described as soft and other areas have been impacted by water runoff.

The soil issues have to be addressed before the main construction can start. The district wants a strong base now so it doesn’t run into problems in the future.

At a special meeting in March, the school board authorized spending up to $300,000 on various treatments to get the site ready. The treatments include adding lime to address the soft soil and adding rock.

On Thursday, Cory Bexter-mueller, with Navigate, explained the various treatments have gotten the soil ready on part of the site

“The building pad was a fight, but we’re finally out of it,” he said.

Between the additions of rock and lime, Bextermueller said the soil is in much better shape. He said this week crews have been installing footings for the foundation in the ground.

So far the additional work has cost $278,110.50, he said.

The bad news is, more treatment is needed.

Bextermueller said there are some areas outside of the building pad that will need to be treated. These areas include the proposed parking lot and future road connecting Prairie Dell to Progress Parkway.

Just this week Bextermueller said crews were working in the area of the proposed road and uncovered buried cornstalks and corn cobs. Those had to be removed and that area will require some sort of remediation to get the soil right, he said.

To address the other soil issues, Bextermueller said the board would have to spend beyond the $300,000 previously allocated for fixing the soil. He estimates somewhere between $100,000 and $150,000 in additional work is needed to make sure the full site has been properly addressed.

That cost could change depending on when the work is done. Navigate is in discussions with the contractor for the new school, ICS Construction Services, about potential time lines.

Bextermueller said the district would benefit if those areas could be left alone for a while. He said if they were allowed to dry out, the cost to address the soil would likely be lower.

ICS may have other plans with its construction time line and force the issue to be addressed earlier. Those details will be ironed out soon, Bextermueller said.

Because the work is needed, the school board backed allocating an additional $200,000 to address the remaining soil problems on the site.

Budget

The extra allocation doesn’t change the estimated project costs, at least not yet.

While the soil remediation is outside of the original scope of work, the district has been paying for it with contingency funds tied into the project’s budget.

Navigate said the school carries an estimated cost of $17,880,658. After spending nearly $300,000 to address the first round of soil issues, Bextermueller said the district has $284,120 remaining in contingency funds.

Time Line

The soil issues have had an impact on the construction schedule.

Based on the original contract with ICS, the school was supposed to be completed on May 15, 2020. That is likely to change because of so many lost days dealing with the soil.

Navigate will be meeting with ICS to figure out the next steps moving forward. Part of that conversation will be a suggestion to move the deadline to June 1, 2020.

Board members favored the extension because they feared a rush at the end to finish construction. Board member Aaron Bockhorst said he didn’t want any corners cut and if the district could make it work, an extension seemed like the right move.

The district said it was comfortable with the change and should still be able to get the school ready for the new year.

Project Background

The school board unanimously approved awarding the contract to ICS at a special meeting in late January. The St. Louis-based ICS was the low bidder for the work coming in at $13,862,000.

The new elementary school is one of several projects being funded by Prop Wildcats. In April 2018, voters approved a $27 million bond issue to make a number of improvements, including a new gym at Beaufort Elementary, additions to Union Middle School and a new maintenance building.

Intended to address some overcrowding issues, the new school is expected to be open for the 2020-21 school year. The school is planned to comfortably fit 600 students and, at a maximum, house 900.