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Ely school project up against hard rock as completion deadline looms

Progress slows as new water line installed through ledge rock

Keith Vandervort
Posted 6/29/22

ELY – The scheduled completion of the $21.5 million school building and renovation project at ISD 696 is just weeks away and workers are literally up against hard rock as they struggle to meet …

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Ely school project up against hard rock as completion deadline looms

Progress slows as new water line installed through ledge rock


ELY – The scheduled completion of the $21.5 million school building and renovation project at ISD 696 is just weeks away and workers are literally up against hard rock as they struggle to meet the hard deadline of the first day of school on Tuesday Sept 6.
Construction officials updated the Ely school board this week and indicated that the project is 87 percent complete. As water line construction from Pattison Street, that goes north across the west edge of the football field to a new fire hydrant on the south side of the new building continues, time-consuming but required rock drilling is slowing progress, according to Todd Erickson of Kraus-Anderson.
“I realize there is some negative impact on the (construction) timeline, but I want to know to what extent that is,” asked board member Rochelle Sjoberg. She also wondered when water main and sewer replacement work will begin on the north side of the campus. “I’m worried about the occupancy certificate for the building with school starting. I want to know where we are at because, obviously, that is a top priority.”
Erickson admitted, “There is an impact financially and on the schedule. Our job is to document what we run into out there. Rachel’s (Contracting) team has been documenting it. And the surveyor for the project is here documenting the work. We have to be very transparent about what we are doing.”
Sjoberg pressed the issue. “Is there a ballpark timeline on this?”
“They were all here late last week and I haven’t had a chance to follow up with them,” Erickson said. “There are a lot of pieces to it. What we could come back to you with is work to date. What we don’t know is the future. They are across the football field and today they were working near the football stadium and working in the area where the fire hydrant goes.”
A drill rig remains on site to locate the areas of hard rock that must be removed to install the water line. “Where they do find rock, the plan is to pre-drill it to assist the back hoe,” Erickson said. “This is very hard rock.”
As far as work commencing on the north side of campus to install new water and sewer lines, a second construction crew will begin right after the Fourth of July holiday, according to Erickson. “We think we can make good progress taking out that (existing) water line that was installed in 1905. We assume all that rock was blasted, and we will use the existing trench. That is going to be super important,” Sjoberg said. “I know some of this, like the rock, is beyond you. There has been some disappointment through parts of this project, and there have been some obstacles. I really don’t want to add to that compounding as we start the school year. I want this to be a new year with a fresh start and new phase. That is something I will be monitoring very closely. Just so you know.”
Erickson also updated board members on delays in building material deliveries.
“We still have some issues with the cabinets for the offices. We ordered them last fall and haven’t seen them yet. They are supposed to be here this week. We have been micromanaging where they can start making cabinets for the district offices and the principals’ offices. We divided the building into multiple sections, so we can focus on a specific area,” he said.
The kitchen area also has some issues with custom fabrication completion.
“We have a delivery date now of July 18,” he said. “After that we have to get the plumbing hooked up in there. It is a complex plumbing plan.”
In the new gymnasium, work is delayed on installing the wood floor because of the moisture dissipation in the concrete floor.
“We poured the floor on Feb. 19 and it was supposed to be ready (for the wood floor) in 60 days,” Erickson said. “We measure the moisture in there at least twice a week and we have a company rep up here working with us.”
He noted that a drying agent product can be applied to the concrete to speed the drying process.
In the renovation of the Washington building, HVAC system work continues, Erickson said.
“The air handling units were ordered in January and are scheduled to arrive by the end of July. Again, we are going to have to micromanage that schedule.”
In the Memorial building, “We don’t even have delivery dates scheduled for some of the tile work, and we can’t finish the showers until that is in,” he said. “Those might not be delivered until September. Again, the supply chain is a real deal.”
He admitted that the showers may not be completed by the start of the school year.
Board member Tony Colarich related concerns from a community member about the loss of trees on the north side of the campus along Harvey Street.
“They were concerned that the trees would not survive this project,” he said.
“This is pretty much a complete redevelopment of the front of the campus,” said Karl Larson of Architectural Resources Inc. “Anything north of the building, you will lose the trees.”
He noted that some trees may be spared on the northwest part of the campus near the elementary playground area.
The new school bus and student drop-off traffic loops and parking areas will result in the loss of existing trees. Board members discussed and approved a final plan for the redesigned parking areas and student drop-off areas.
Ely police chief Chad Houde and K-5 Principal Anne Oelke will produce an educational video for parents and the community explaining the substantial changes in traffic and parking that will be implemented for the 2022-23 school year.
“The big thing for safety is that on Harvey Street there will be no parking (during the school day),” Superintendent John Klarich said. “That is a big deal for after school.”
The public will still be allowed to park on the north side of Harvey Street and on side streets.
“We have limited where people can go,” he said. “The drop-off loops will be one-way in and out. For the parking lots, there will be one way in and one way out. We will have signs indicating all of this. We have put a lot of work into this plan.”


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