November 30, 2012

City and county school officials delay construction projects

By Christopher Smith
christophersmith@daltoncitizen.com

— Dalton Public Schools officials missed a “very tight window” this month to begin construction on a new artificial sports field and running track at Dalton High School, an official said.

“We’ve obviously disappointed,” Craig Harper, chief administrative officer for the school system, said. “Of course, you’re always hopeful things will fall your way, but we don’t want to rush this project. We have to make sure this is done correctly, not quickly.”

The project was expected to finish by the start of track season on Feb. 1. Now it will be delayed until school gets out for the summer on May 24, school officials said.

The Board of Education voted on Oct. 15 to let Shaw Sports Turf replace Dalton High’s grass practice field with a 90,600-square-foot artificial field and supervise improvements to the running track. The project costs $498,379 so far, but the final price tag is unclear until Shaw releases construction bids for the track, something that didn’t happen as soon as school officials expected.

Chuck McClurg, the vice president of sales for Shaw Sports Turf who is overseeing the project, did not immediately return a voicemail left for him Thursday afternoon.

“I don’t know why they (the bids) didn’t come in on time,” Harper said. “We thought they would come in today (Thursday, Nov. 29), but they haven’t. We’re not going to start the project as anticipated. Not just because of the track bids, but because of the overall process. All the tweaking — things like grading, marking we did once we got to the site — delayed us before we could move dirt. At this point, there is not enough warm weather left to let the materials cure — asphalt first and the track second.”

Asphalt needs to settle in warm, dry weather in order to harden (cure) properly, Harper said.

“Shaw will help out and do some temporary repairs on the (current) track to get it ready for the season,” he added. “It’s not an extra expense. It’s temporary patch-work. The surface is not as good as you’d like for competition, but it’s just an appearance problem.”

• Northwest Georgia College and Career Academy officials are also facing setbacks in their timeline for the construction of several science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) labs at high schools and middle schools in the county. Groundbreaking was expected between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“Now, we’re looking at some time in early January,” Tim Fleming, academy principal and chief executive officer, said. “We were waiting to receive all three certification letters from the (state) Department of Education. We’re good from their point of view now. We’re waiting to get all the construction bids on the labs before we vote. The Career Academy Board (of Directors) will vote on it first and then it will go to the (Whitfield County) Board of Education who will ultimately have the final say.”

The labs will allow students in county schools to enroll in academy classes and will be funded by a $2.6 million state grant. The academy plans to build labs at Southeast Whitfield High School, Northwest Whitfield High School, Eastbrook Middle School, Valley Point Middle School, Westside Middle School, North Whitfield Middle School and New Hope Middle School with room for additional labs if the bid costs come in lower than expected.

J.W. Buckley and Associates, the Rome-based architect firm that designed the labs, sent out the bids to construction companies on Nov. 7. Fleming says the firm will release bid information on Dec. 7 after the 30-day deadline for bids ends.