Central Elementary roof repair woes will stretch into 2020

OKEECHOBEE — The repair work to the roof at Central Elementary was originally scheduled to be completed before the beginning of the 2019-20 school year.

After a series of setbacks experienced by roofing contractor Property Renovation & Construction, Okeechobee County School District Director of Operations Brian Barret expressed hope the project would be competed by Christmas 2019.

Now, it appears the earliest the project could be finished would be spring break next year.

“They got a little bit done over Thanksgiving break,” Mr. Barret reported to the Okeechobee County School Board on Dec. 10. “They showed up with no tools on the first day. Their tools were in Jacksonville, so another guy showed up and loaned his tools out to the six-man crew that were there. They got very little done. I don’t see them getting done during Christmas break. One thing that isn’t their fault is that every time they tear something off they find something that isn’t up to code.”

In September the contractors working for Property Renovation & Construction discovered that additional materials were going to be needed to complete construction of the roof as they tore the old one away. At their Sept. 10 meeting the Okeechobee County School Board had to approve two change orders for the project. The first change order approved was for $25,500 and was needed for the installation of additional materials under 25 air conditioning units on five buildings. The second change order was for $35,512 and was for new metal materials to replace older material that has rusted and needed to be sandblasted off.

Over Thanksgiving, more issues were discovered.

The most pressing finding was that there is nothing mechanically attaching the roof at Central Elementary to the building on the east and west ends. Only the weight of the previous four roofs are holding it down at the moment.

Mr. Barret said that it appears to be the way the roof was built back in 1958.

“How did it survive the hurricanes through the years?” asked Okeechobee County School Board member Jill Holcomb.

“Got lucky,” replied Mr. Barret.

Back during that Sept. 10 meeting the school board also approved a new contract with Roof Assessments Specialists Inc. The company was hired to review the work done by Property Renovation & Construction on the Central roof as it progresses, provide daily image reports, review and enforce correction of property damage and review pay requests among other duties.

Mr. Barret credits Roof Assessments Specialists Inc. for reviewing the work by the roofing contractor and ensuring things are done correctly.

Mrs. Holcomb asked if the school district had to keep the current contractor.

“If we got rid of them, it’s going to cost us a lot of money,” explained Mr. Barret. “They came in at such a low bid. We’d have to re-bid this and it would cost us a lot more than it’s costing us now. It’s beneficial for us to just have Ron (Roof Assessments Specialists representative) there full-time to try to push these guys along, continue writing reports and sending them to their bonding company.”

The Okeechobee County School District also experienced problems with Property Renovation & Construction during their work on the Okeechobee High School roof in late 2018 and early 2019.

During a presentation to the school board back on April 9, Mr. Barret gave an update on how the progress was going on the roof at OHS. He called the roofing problematic and stated that what was originally a two-month job had stretched into seven months due to poor workmanship and not following the contracted roof specifications.

Unfortunately, the school board approved another contract with Property Renovation & Construction to work on Central Elementary before the extent of the problems the contractor was having at OHS were known.

“You could put their bonding agent on notice and you could get these guys probably for breach of contract,” explained Okeechobee Superintendent of Schools Ken Kenworthy to school board members. “But then you’re going to be in a lawsuit for multiple years and you’re going to end up paying the cost for a new roofer to come in anyway. I’m not in any way defending them, but some of the things you see are beyond their control.

“Who knew the four layers of roof were the only thing holding it on.? Until you tore it apart you wouldn’t have any idea what is underneath there. The problem that we have is the work ethic, workmanship and having to do things multiple times. This project should have been done a year ago.”

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