Tonawanda News

March 13, 2013

Firm may bill TCSD

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Residents questioned Tuesday night why the Tonawanda City School District may have to pay Wendel architects to redo capital project drawings after bids for the music wing came back thousands over budget.

“It was their error,” Joy Richardson said at the board meeting. “Couldn’t they do them at a discounted price, or for free?” 

Wendel and Pike Co., the project manager, insisted for months that the bids for the project would come in under budget — and most of the bids did. But the low bid for the music wing construction came in at least $500,000 over Wendel and Pike’s estimate. 

“When you do the math, they made a 26 percent error,” Richardson said.

Now, the district has three choices, according to Brian Brady, of Wendel. The board could go back to the community and ask for more money to build the project exactly as planned; to proceed with the addition but make changes to the drawings to save money; or renovate the existing music rooms instead of creating an addition.

Brady recommended the third option at a public meeting in recent weeks, and Board President Jackie Smilinich asked Wendel for a quote on how much drawings of the new renovations would cost. 

In response to Richardson’s concerns Tuesday, Smilinich said the district’s attorney, Chris Trapp, is currently reviewing the contract with the two companies. 

Lynn Casal, a former board member who resigned in January, defended the school board Tuesday in light of the recent developments. 

“I heard the vice president of the board said promises were being broken,” she said. “But we didn’t promise anything, it was a proposal.”

Casal also said that the original request for proposal for the project involved renovations of the two music rooms, and didn’t involve an addition. 

“Just like when you find something at your house, a project might have to change,” Casal said. “A new wing may not be possible, but renovating the rooms to make them as beautiful for the students is.” 

Casal also pointed out the aspects of the project that came in over budget, including the expensive paneling and the glass that would be used in the addition.

“Why were such expensive materials being proposed in the first place?” she said. 

The board’s discussions with Wendel and Pike are continuing, and representatives from both companies will attend the next school board meeting to discuss the project. 

Meanwhile, district officials said construction on the stadium will begin as soon as the contract is signed. 

Prior to the board meeting, the budget advisory team met with the school board. During the meeting, Smilinich asked Director of Facilities Paul Maziarz to reduce his maintenance budget by $50,000 based on the closing of Central School. 

In response, Elizabeth Olka, who sits on the team, cautioned Maziarz.

“Paul, seriously ... if you can’t do it, don’t do it,” she said.

Maziarz said he will likely end up with a surplus after this year, and that Central School may soon be sold.

“I met with the realtor again, and they might have a buyer for the building,” Maziarz said. “I will look at the utility costs again.” 

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150