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Catching up on construction: D161 talks summer plans, persistent problems

Construction dominated discussions at the Flossmoor School District 161 Board of Education meeting held Monday, Feb. 8, with an eye toward the summer leading the way.

Associate Superintendent Fran LaBella called the work District 161 is aiming to do in summer 2021 “very minor compared to what we’ve been doing in previous years.”

Among the projects are several outside posts that need to be replaced at Normandy Villa, Serena Hills and Flossmoor Hills. Two photos presented to the board of the posts at Normandy Villa show cracked concrete and rusting metal around the base of those posts.

“Those we really need to take care of this summer,” LaBella said. “They’re becoming a hazard.”

District staff is also looking to add a wall at Normandy Villa to provide privacy for residency, transportation, and free and reduced lunch services. Superintendent Dana Smith said because the building used to be a school that was transitioned to administrative spaces, staff has recognized a need for walls to help maintain privacy for families.

“We want to give them the respect those important conversations deserve,” Smith said.

District 161 is also looking to do asphalt repair work at Flossmoor Hills and Heather Hill Schools. Similarly, photos were shown featuring asphalt at Heather Hill that is in disrepair.

LaBella said the district plans to work with Wold Architects to prepare a bid for the work. Costs are to be determined.

Following that discussion, LaBella also updated the board on a construction project from last summer that is still not complete. She said the condition of some unit ventilators that were installed over the summer does not meet expectations.

LaBella said the issues remain with Trane, a subcontractor of Cryer & Olsen, which itself is a subcontractor of the district’s general contractor, Henry Bros. She said Trane continues to have workers in the buildings to correct the issues, and the company has agreed to extend the warranty period for the unit ventilators because of the adjustments that are being made.

Matt Verdun, from Wold Architects, said some of the damage is simply cosmetic and occurred during shipping. But operational issues have also been discovered. Everything is functional, and none of the issues will hold up students from returning to the buildings, he said, “but it’s a nuisance nonetheless.”

“Unfortunately, getting some of the replacement parts has been slow,” Verdun said.

Verdun noted Trane has sent people to work on issues, but they have not all been addressed and sometimes new problems are discovered when others are resolved.

“We have continued to hold their feet to the fire, and we’re continuing to hold a significant amount of payment,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of work to do with some of our expectations from the service standpoint.”

Verdun said the district has been withholding roughly $100,000 from Trane until the issues are resolved to the district’s satisfaction. The school board has been discussing issues related to the installation of univents at Western Avenue and Flossmoor Hills schools since late August.

“They’re still being responsive,” Verdun said of Trane. “They have a plan. The plan is unfortunately not moving super-fast. …  We’ve had a couple of instances where it’s taken a step backwards or sideways.”

No one from Trane actively participated in the conversation or identified themselves as in attendance at the meeting, which was held via Zoom.

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