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Eisenhower contractor gets more time for field fixes

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Eisenhower HS football field 2 1.9.18

The Eisenhower High School athletic fields, including the football field, has been troubled by drainage issues since their reconstruction in 2014. The Decatur school board recently cleared the path to take legal action against the contractor.

DECATUR – The Decatur school board is allowing more time to work with contractors to fix problems with Eisenhower High School's football field without litigation, if possible. 

Board members on Tuesday approved an agreement with BLDD Architects and Nicholas & Associates.  The move allows the firms to work with the school district to fix drainage issues without eating up time on the statute of limitations for the district to file a lawsuit if a solution isn't reached. 

A similar agreement, approved in August, provided BLDD with an extension to correct problems with the HVAC units at both Eisenhower and MacArthur High School. Illinois law allows a four-year window from the date of “substantial completion” before litigation may be pursued, which the board and the two businesses agreed they would rather avoid. The deadline would have been today. 

Grass won't grow on the Eisenhower football field and there have been issues with drainage, said Sam Johnson of BLDD. Whether that's a design issue or a construction issue is unclear. A message left with Nicholas & Associates on Tuesday evening had not been returned at press time.

The board voted Jan. 9 to authorize litigation with Nicholas & Associates, but the agreement on Tuesday means that the district won't actually file legal action as long as talks and progress toward another solution are underway, officials said. The board tabled a previous vote on the agreement with BLDD, with board President Dan Oakes saying the district wanted to be transparent by making the agreement public beforehand. 

So far, Johnson said, some progress has been made on the HVAC situation. In August, the board approved an agreement with BLDD, for the firm to pay $25,000 for retrofits on two classrooms in each building to test whether a “hot gas reheat” feature designed to control humidity, which was not included in the original units, would fix the problem. The parties have not yet met for a discussion and it's as yet unknown what course they will pursue, or who pays for what, as district Superintendent Paul Fregeau said in August.

BLDD is responsible for design and administration of the Eisenhower renovation project. The general contractor that handled construction is Nicholas & Associates.

Problems that have cropped up at the renovated high schools have sometimes been misunderstood, Johnson said: the moisture on the lower level of Eisenhower; the football field; the misplaced location of a loading dock at that building; and the tuckpointing project at MacArthur.

“Moisture transmits through a concrete slab,” Johnson said. “Today's practices include a barrier to stop that transmission. (In older buildings) they may or may not have that barrier, and with that in mind, you have to make a choice. You can choose to install that barrier, which doubles the cost of the flooring, which means you choose to reduce your school project in some form or fashion.”

What the district and BLDD decided instead was to test whether the moisture was present when the flooring was removed, and to allow the moisture to evaporate. That meant that classes had to be held in that area of the building with bare concrete instead of flooring for a time, he said.

The loading dock at Eisenhower was one of the inevitable things that can crop up when extensive demolition is required prior to construction, and had been planned and budgeted for. MacArthur's tuckpointing had been planned when the rest of the renovation work was done, if the budget allowed, but costs of the renovation meant the tuck-pointing had to be postponed, Johnson said. That also was included in the plans.

In other business, the school board heard a presentation from former board member Fred Spannaus on the process for conducting an evaluation of Fregeau's performance so far, which is generally done in the first quarter of the calendar year. The board also heard an update on the strategic plan process. The tentative date for that plan to be presented for board approval is in May.


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