NLS construction project inches ahead
NEW LONDON — As the first day of school inches closer, progress continues to be made on a $20.6 million construction project in the New London-Spicer School District.
Kevin Currie, construction manager with Winkelman Building Corporation, told the NLS School Board this week that the additions and renovations at the Prairie Woods Elementary School building and the new gym at the high school/middle school will be done when school begins Sept. 5.
But the new entrance to the middle school and the new 650-seat performing arts theater will not.
It was known early on that the theater would not be finished when school started, but some additional glitches, including an error by the masonry contractor that had to be redone, set the project back another six to seven weeks.
"Those things happen," Currie said. "There wasn't much we can do about it."
Currie also said he underestimated the impact of sequencing construction of the complicated theater project with the rest of the work. Inclement weather has also caused delays.
Currie said he's now shooting for completion by mid-January for the theater.
"We'll do our best to shorten that but I don't want to over promise," he said.
Currie said he's been telling contractors to "Get it done. Get it done. Get it done. And that's what we're trying to do."
Board Chairman Robert Moller said the end result will be worth the wait and will have a "serious wow factor" for the district.
"We're going to be very happy with the facilities," Moller said, adding that the delays are understandable once they're explained and that contractors — especially the local ones — are "really taking great pride in this and in the end it's going to show."
There have been a few other construction frustrations.
Currie said a contractor failed to provide some windows and doors on time despite repeated phone calls and withholding of payments.
But most work is progressing on time and on budget.
Currie said the project is in "better shape budget-wise than I anticipated."
Tours of the new gym and elementary school additions will be given from 4 to 6 p.m. Sept 8, prior to the Wildcat's first football game. The event will include recognition of contractors and community supporters.
The district is also tweaking a naming rights policy that could put a donor's name on a facility, like the gym. The board said more work needs to be done on a draft policy before it can be approved.
Because not all aspects of the project are completed, dismissal times for the elementary students will be flip-flopped with the middle school/high school students to allow for safe bus loading. Older students will be dismissed at 3:05 p.m. and board buses, which will then pick up elementary students, who will be dismissed at 3:20 to 3: 25 p.m. The buses will travel on a new road that will connect the two schools
In other action this week, the board agreed to explore participating in a solar energy subscription agreement for the Prairie Meadows Learning Center in Spicer. The school gets its electricity from Xcel Energy, which is purchasing renewable energy from developers, including a company called SolarStone that's installing a 47-acre solar array in Sartell. If approved, the school could realize potential energy savings over the 25-year life of the proposed contract.