Delays in the details

Darleene Barrientos

Construction at Cerritos Elementary School is finished, but because

of delays, the district withheld $1 million from contractors and the

project has not been completed.

Glendale Unified School District officials were happy to announce

at last week's school board meeting that Cerritos Elementary School

was declared finished in May, with the exception of some playground

equipment that must be replaced before children can use it. But the

district owes Gardena-based Amelco Construction, and its bond company

Traveler's Insurance, about $1 million because of a 2 1/2-year delay

to finish the $15-million modernization project.

The project began in 1999 with Measure K funds. Measure K is a

voter-approved, $186-million facilities improvement bond passed in

1997. The project was initially scheduled to be finished in November

2001 and also missed a deadline in January.

"We incurred additional costs for construction management,

inspection, architectural fees," said Steve Hodgson, the district's

chief financial and business officer. "We've probably incurred

additional costs of over $1 million. We held money back from the

contractor to cover those costs ... to address the liquidated

damages. The contractor, now the bonding company, will want those

funds for themselves."

The school is about finished and everything else is operational,

said Ken Gilleland, a district construction project manager who

oversees the Cerritos project.

Part of the project's delay was due to the district's change

orders, he said.

"We can't deny that. We don't deny that," Gilleland said. "But the

contractor is responsible for at least 60% of the time delay."

Amelco officials disagree slightly. Reuben Hughes, Amelco's

executive vice president, believes the district, its representatives,

the architect, and the number of change orders were equally

responsible for the 2 1/2-year delay.

"The problem that we encountered was that we had a lot of bad

subcontractors we were forced to use because of public contracting

codes," Hughes said. "Five major subcontractors went bankrupt, [and

their] bond companies went belly up. That contributed a great deal of

the delays."

Amelco has not decided whether to sue the district for the $1

million, Hughes said, adding that the bond company and the district

were negotiating how much should be paid.

"It depends on the negotiations we make within the next three

months," he said.

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