New Carmacks school needs renos

Carmacks’ new school is a money pit. Set to open last fall, the construction project is behind schedule and over budget.

Carmacks’ new school is a money pit.

Set to open last fall, the construction project is behind schedule and over budget.

The $9,348,000 project has jumped to $14 million, Liberal education critic Eric Fairclough said on Tuesday.

And the school still is not finished.

This week, Fairclough learned there was a problem with the heating system.

It must be torn out and replaced.

That involves ripping out the ductwork in the walls, said Fairclough.

“This job will cost an additional $2 or $3 million.

“The building has to be renovated before anyone even moves in.”

“There are some problems with the heating system in the school,” said Highways and Public Works Minister Archie Lang in legislature on Tuesday.

“And they are being addressed as we speak.”

The heating system is too small and can’t heat the building, said property management’s senior projects manager Michael Cowper.

The boilers and attached equipment have to be replaced.

It will cost $169,000, said Cowper.

The ductwork doesn’t need to be changed, he added.

“Somewhere, someone didn’t pay attention,” said Fairclough.

The need for a new heating system is only one of many foul-ups that have plagued the project.

Last winter, the roof was leaking, he said.

 Carmacks’ old school also suffered a leaky roof, which resulted in black mould and forced the closure of several classrooms.

“And now, we’re faced with the same situation in the new building,” said Fairclough.

Once the snow started melting, the roof did leak, confirmed Cowper.

“But it was fixed immediately.

“It’s not a problem.”

Fairclough isn’t so sure.

Before students move into the new school, he wants an air-quality test carried out.

“We want to see a safe place for students who live in a community where many homes have black mould,” he said.

But the government hasn’t committed to air-quality testing at the new school.

“We’re working with that contractor, and certainly it will be at the highest standard of completion in the fall and health will be one of the things we will be working with,” Lang told the legislature.

Fairclough blames the school’s rising costs and many problems on its winter construction.

“They were working on the roof in the winter,” said Fairclough.

“That takes a lot more man hours and is costly.”

“There was no hard roofing done during the really cold periods,” said Cowper.

The materials get too brittle.

During the winter, the construction was mostly inside the building, he said.

Even the school’s site is contentious.

“There was an old dump there, and clearing the area they pulled out buried garbage and a sewage tank,” said Fairclough.

“It’s silty.”

People in the community have reported cracks in the new building’s walls, and there are doors that won’t close, he added.

“Apparently, the building’s already shifted.”

That’s not the case, said Cowper.

While preparing the site, “unsuitable soil” was discovered, he said.

“But it was removed and replaced.”

The soil upgrade cost $400,000.

And that pushed up the cost of the project, said Cowper.

“But these kinds of discoveries aren’t unusual with projects like this.”

The total cost of the project so far is $10,012,000, he added.

“And it is close to completion.”

There’s no reason the project should have gone so far over budget, said Fairclough.

“In ‘98 a new school was built in Old Crow for under $9 million,” he said.

“It came in on budget even though it had to be built on pylons and they had to put in a winter road.”

 Carmacks’ new school will be over-budget by $5 million, said Fairclough.

“That’s about what it will cost to put in the new sewer treatment centre in Carmacks.”

Inuvik’s Dowland Contracting Ltd. was awarded the school contract.

Dowland’s construction manager Larry Whelan didn’t return calls by press time.

Lang also refused to be interviewed about the school project.

The new school should be completed by the next school year, said Cowper.

The holdup will be waiting on the heating-system parts, which can take up to four weeks to arrive, he said.

Tantalus School principal Cully Robinson hadn’t heard about the heating system foul-up by Wednesday morning.

“We were told we’d be moving in this summer,” he said.

“Our offices are being transferred over and our furniture and files will be moved.

“We’re very excited.”