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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 21, 2018

New London school district threatens to sue Hackett Construction over track-laying error

Jan 16, 2018

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News

 

A mistake made in September during the construction of New London’s new track has left the school board asking for an extended warranty from the construction company or they will approach their attorney.

Tempers were high at the New London School Board meeting on Monday, Jan. 15, as school faculty and staff and members from the community showed up to voice their concerns about the construction of the track. Jenna Hackett, with Todd Hackett Construction Co., opened the discussion with an explanation of the mistakes made, how they caught them and the ways Hackett Construction has worked with subcontractors to correct them.

“There’s been some hiccups along the way,” Jenna began.

On Sept. 7, 2017, Hackett’s subcontractor, Midwest Tennis and Track, noticed that the radi on the inside of the track was too short. The first lane of the track on the north and southwest side closest to the bleachers was not wide enough.

Hackett Construction worked with a civil engineer to come up with a strategy to correct the problem. They made a clean cut a few inches into the track and did radius edging by hand using plate vibrators for compaction. After talking with the civil engineer on Sept. 11, 2017, Jenna said there were “no big red flags,” and repairs began the next day.

As repairs were underway, concerns were voiced by the architect. Jenna said that everyone involved in the project wanted the community to be happy and ensure the engineering was the best it possibly could be. The key to extending the radius of the inside track was adhering it to the asphalt that was already laid and making it smooth and flawless.

The school board is concerned that because the asphalt was not laid in one piece, it will come apart as the ground naturally shifts.

Currently, the project has a one-year warranty, including groundwork, from the initial completion date in August. The resilient surfacing has a five-year warranty. The school board is asking about an additional five-year warranty on the extended asphalt.

After hearing Hackett Construction’s explanation of the mistakes and efforts to correct the problem, Mike McBeth took the floor in a public forum.

“We now have a patched, new facility that we’re being told is going to be OK that’s under warranty for five years,” McBeth said. “But we also believed we had a new, not patched facility from the beginning … I believe you need an extended warranty. In my opinion, I’d almost say tear the whole damn thing up and start over.”

McBeth went on to say that if the project will cost the school district more money, he would prefer the money be put toward letting lawyers come to an agreement.

As McBeth finished speaking, Todd Hackett stood up, saying, “We’re not responsible for every single thing [during the construction process].”

Jenna jumped in to add her apologies, adding that although the company tries to have people supervise their subcontractors, it isn’t always possible to pin people down and have them sit out on the job site all day.

McBeth said he appreciated what she was saying, but that it sounded like excuses.

District Superintendent Chad Wahls addressed Todd, saying, “You supervise it, whether you like it or not. How many people came on our site and repeatedly damaged things?”

Board President Lindsay Porter attempted to alleviate the tension in the room. “This is a very passionate issue for our community,” she said. “I don’t know that a resolution can be reached tonight … I don’t know what the next step is, but I don’t think we can compromise on this.”

Jenna said that from her standpoint, Hackett Construction can no longer do anything right in the communities’ eyes. “We’ll continue to push for the extended warranty,” she said. “You guys have something to be proud of and you’re hung up on this.”

“A patched track. That’s something to be proud of? A brand-new patched track,” McBeth said sarcastically.

Chad Wahls, New London Community School District superintendent, said that unless they can come to an agreement with Hackett Construction, his recommendation to the board will be to either accept an extended warranty or approach an attorney.

In other news, the board voted to sign a contract with Triple R Driving School. After deciding to work with a driver education vendor instead of keeping the class in-house, Wahls said that in following up with references, he received good feedback on Triple R.

The contract is for one year and will continue as a spring session, but Wahls said they could potentially add another section of the class during the fall or summer. The class will cost $340 per student.

The board also voted not to increase registration fees for the 2018 to 2019 school year.

The next New London School Board meeting will be Tuesday, Feb. 20 because of Presidents’ Day on Monday that week.

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