EAST MONTPELIER — Reconstruction of the outdoor track at U-32 Middle and High School tripped over the final hurdle this week when the subcontractor responsible for the last leg of the project refused to warranty its work if forced to finish it now.
With temperatures dropping, Principal Steven Dellinger-Pate said the warrantied window for applying the rubberized surface on a newly installed asphalt oval — one that has been idle and off limits since Aug. 29 — has closed. That work, he told members of the Washington Central School Board at their Wednesday night meeting, won’t be finished until next June.
A month after board members were told the track was weeks away from being finished, they learned the weather-sensitive work that was originally slated for early-September still hadn’t started.
Dellinger-Pate explained it won’t until next May based on a Tuesday meeting attended by frustrated school officials, an unhappy general contractor, and a subcontractor — Conica — he said displayed a “misunderstanding of Vermont weather.”
According to Dellinger-Pate, installing the rubberized surface requires consistent temperatures of 40 degrees or higher and when confronted with the reality that isn’t likely in October in Vermont, the company countered with a guarantee-free installation.
“They won’t warranty the track if they try to put it down now,” he said.
Dellinger-Pate said, Conica representatives drew chuckles from school officials and the contractor, DuBois Construction Inc. of Middlesex, when they offered to return to complete the work in April.
“We told them that is very kind of you, but we’re not going to blow the snow off of it,” Dellinger-Pate said. “April is worse than October in Vermont.”
Unwilling to proceed without a warranty and eager to complete to project as soon as possible, Dellinger-Pate said the work that was supposed to happen last month will now be completed in May with the understanding it be finished no later than June 1.
Dellinger-Pate said he informed Hank Van Orman, the school’s co-curricular activities director, of the revised schedule earlier in the day and alternate arrangements for the spring track season are now being made.
The development means U-32 won’t be hosting any track meets next year and an alternate venue for practices will have to be found. Dellinger-Pate said that will effect some neighboring schools, like Montpelier and Northfield, that have typically used U-32’s track for practices in the past.
“There will be a ripple effect, but we need to figure out what we’re going to do,” he said after the meeting.
Dellinger-Pate said school officials hadn’t ruled out pursuing damages for the delay based on a missed completion date that was spelled out in the contract. He acknowledged as much during the meeting noting representatives from DuBois Construction were “not pleased,” because their work was finished more than a month ago and there was ample time to apply the rubberized surface in September when weather wasn’t an issue.
Dellinger-Pate said Conica let that favorable weather window close while dealing with rain delays in Boston where the company is installing a new track at Thayer Academy.
Though switching subcontractors was a theoretical option, Dellinger-Pate said, it wouldn’t expedite the work and would likely come at a cost. Based on other bids that were submitted earlier this year, he predicted the district would likely incur $50,000 to $100,000 in extra expenses and no company would stand behind a track installed this late in the season.
Dellinger-Pate said Conica has already certified the work performed by DuBois Construction satisfies their standards and has agreed to switch the red surface that no one noticed was buried in their original bid to a black track similar to the one hat was ripped out when work on the project started in June.
“At least we got something,” he said of what school officials view as an aesthetic upgrade.
Both the track and the field it surrounds have been off limits pending the completion of the project, and while the track isn’t ready to use, Dellinger-Pate said the field will be released in time for the school’s football and soccer teams to host some games and giving senior players an opportunity to play at home.
While the delay was unexpected, board members agreed it was prudent to wait for the warranty given the district’s $926,000 investment in the 20-year project. Most of that cost was included DuBois Construction’s low bid of $792,355. That bid included the full-depth excavation and replacement of the old track and the price for the rubberized surface quoted by Conica.