Estimate to fix Power Ranch? $6.68 million - East Valley Tribune: News

Estimate to fix Power Ranch? $6.68 million

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Posted: Friday, February 12, 2010 5:41 pm | Updated: 3:48 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

It will cost $6.68 million - more than half of the original $13.2 million construction costs - to repair the structural and drainage problems at Power Ranch Elementary School.

It will cost $6.68 million - more than half of the original $13.2 million construction costs - to repair the structural and drainage problems at Higley's Power Ranch Elementary School, according to estimates obtained by the Tribune on Friday.

Power Ranch, opened in 2002 in southeast Gilbert, has been plagued by various problems around campus, such as gym walls separating at the roof, cracks in the stucco near outside windows and concrete slabs pulling away from the building. When it rains, cracks and holes near windows and by the foundation let water in the classrooms, causing mold. Drainage issues in the courtyard and around the campus have caused flooding.

Higley Unified School District has hired a law firm and engineering company to discover whose fault the problems are, what needs to be done to fix them and how much it all will cost. The investigation has been ongoing since October, after mold was found. Structural problems were large enough to become a concern since at least 2008.

A spokesman for Haydon Building Corp, the Phoenix construction company that built the school, said Haydon has not been contacted by Higley to help fix the problems.

"Typically if an issue comes up, we are contacted by the owner," said Fritz Behrhorst, Haydon's vice president of pre-construction. "We don't know the nature of the problems they're having. Typically, when a client calls us, we'll help solve the problem."

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Higley officials did not contact Haydon because the building's 24-month standard construction warranty had passed, and they didn't believe Haydon could offer much help, said Tony Malaj, Higley's director of educational support and community partnerships.

"There's more of a warranty on your cars than on a school building," Malaj said.

Behrhorst said there is a warranty for their work, but he is not sure what type of warranty Power Ranch has.

Malaj was also planning on informing the Arizona School Facilities Board late Friday afternoon of the problems, and was filling out the required form and attaching the estimates and insurance coverage.

Higley has filed a claim with the Arizona Risk Retention Trust, the district's insurance company, but ended up hiring a different engineering firm after the recommended firm referred by the trust took too long to visit the school, Malaj said.

McCarthy Building Companies, which is building Higley's network center and maintenance facility behind the district office, provided a free construction repair estimate to the district on Thursday. The estimate, which lists 50 expenses, is $6.24 million.

Those estimated expenses include $466,600 for earthwork and demolition, $593,000 for a flooring and moisture barrier, and $432,400 to remove and replace stucco throughout the campus.

"Our purpose is to give you an idea of the magnitude of the cost for doing the work described," wrote Terry Bohl, a McCarthy education services director, in the Feb. 11 letter to Malaj. "The actual cost will certainly vary once additional studies are made and specific remedies are developed. Given that in developing the final solutions there are options for differing approaches that will cost more or less than our assumptions, it is reasonable to use our attachment (of estimates) as a realistic cost to perform the work described."

NTD Architecture, which also gave Higley a free estimate on Friday, estimated the fees to fix the problems would be $437,000, Malaj said. This cost would cover the architect, civil engineer, structural engineer, landscape architect, mechanical plumbing and electrical engineers, Malaj said.

The construction repair estimate of $6.24 million plus the architectural cost of $437,000 makes the final total $6.68 million.

"We knew it would cost something, but we didn't really know what to expect," he said.

Higley officials have been working with local legislators to change a law to allow the cash-strapped district to use a portion of a voter-approved bond to pay for the Power Ranch problems. The school is located at 4351 S. Ranch House Parkway in the Power Ranch community.

The repair estimates will now be given to Rep. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa, who leads the House Education Committee.

Higley officials are working with Crandall; Rep. Laurin Hendrix, R-Gilbert; and Rep. Warde Nichols, R-Chandler; to change the law to allow Higley to use a portion of its $71.5 million voter-approved bond to fix the Power Ranch problems.

Higley has not been able to use this money because a school district can't exceed 10 percent of its secondary assessed valuation in total outstanding debt. Higley can't sell more bonds because it would pass that threshold, but Higley is trying to raise that percentage.

Without a change in the law, or unless the economy picks up and housing values rise in the district's boundaries, Higley won't be able to use the remaining $71.5 million of a $120 million bond voters approved in November 2006.

Higley has hired Tucson's DeConcini, McDonald, Yetwin & Lacy law firm, which specializes in construction-defects litigation, to investigate the problems at Power Ranch.

That law firm hired the engineering firm of Fountain Hills' Philip S. Coppola & Associates to help resolve the issues.

Haydon has built between eight to 10 schools in the Valley, including in the Chandler and Apache Junction unified school districts.

Now that Haydon knows about the structural and drainage problems at Power Ranch, even though Higley has not contacted the company, Behrhorst said he could not comment on whether Haydon would make the effort to contact Higley to figure out what can be done.

Haydon has been building in the state for 18 years, has 200 employees, and has its headquarters in Phoenix. The company has completed multiple projects in the Valley, from Chandler's Tumbleweed Park phase IV design and build, to Queen Creek's bridge and wash improvements at Sossaman Road, according to its Web site.

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