Willard repair costs debated | News, Sports, Jobs


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WARREN — The Warren City School District has spent nearly $2 million over the past two years on the roof at Willard PK-8 School to fix problems that experts and school leaders now say likely existed since, or shortly after, the building was first constructed more than 10 years ago.

Close examinations of the roof reveal the issues “go deeper” than anyone first thought, explained John Lacy, executive director of business operations.

School leaders have explained the process of fixing the problem has been like peeling an onion: You remove one layer to discover another issue.

Now, school district leaders and representatives of the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission and their attorneys are working to determine whether the district has any recourse to recover any of that investment.

But it’s a long shot because of the amount of time that has passed since the school was opened in 2009.

“We do not know the cause, whether they were caused by architects during the design, were made during construction or a combination of both,” Lacy said. “We are working closely with the state on this because whatever the outcome, it (the state) will be impacted because it paid 80 percent for the construction of the building.”

The district invested $222,000 in addressing what was initially identified as a ventilation problem that damaged a portion of the roof.

Schools Superintendent Steve Chiaro had Phillips Sekanick Architects of Warren brought in to find out what was causing the problem. Initially, the company said it noted insufficient ventilation between the roof, its insulation and a metal underlay.

This contributed to moisture in the roof, which rotted some of its wood and metal decking.

Phillips Sekanick Architects, which was not the building project architect; DeSalvo Construction of Hubbard, the building contractor; and Boak and Sons, which has a maintenance contract with the district, have been working to determine a final cause.

ERRORS MADE

“My understanding is there were two errors in the original design — inadequate attic ventilation and unfinished ceiling drywall (above the acoustic ceiling) — which allowed moist conditioned air into the attic,” J.C. Benton, a spokesman with the OFCC, said.

The district announced at a June 2020 board of education meeting it signed a contract to replace the ventilation and less than 50 percent of the roof.

By that July, however, it was determined that more than 90 percent of the school’s roof was damaged by trapped moisture between the roof and the metal sheeting that lay between it and classrooms.

The roofing contractor said so much moisture was in the metal decking channels causing severe water damage that the water had to be removed, according to Lacy. He noted the problem could not be seen from underneath and was not evident during interior or exterior inspections. Once the ventilation project was initiated in 2020, the damage was discovered when work crews removed a portion of the roof to install corrective ventilation measures.

“This should not be happening to a building that opened in 2009,” Lacy said. “We are not having these problems on any of our other buildings.”

Lacy said the cost of construction of Willard school was $17.3 million. The replacement and repair costs for the roof totals about one-tenth of that amount, $1.7 million, including the initial $222,000.

Boak and Sons has been doing the repair work, and it is expected to be completed this month.

A company called VEC Systems did the first roof on Willard.

The 10-year construction guarantee has expired, so without a legal challenge, the cost of the roof replacement is falling on the school district.

Warren replaced its buildings in the early 2000s thanks to funds received from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, formerly known as the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission.

Since the Rebuilding Ohio’s Schools program began in 1997, the commission has completed facilities work in 303 of 612 districts, investing more than $13 billion in the construction of more than 1,245 new Ohio schools, according to Benton.

Warren was approved to build four PK-8 buildings and a new high school. Willard was the second of the new PK-8 buildings completed. The architectural firm Fanning Howey, with offices in Celina and Columbus, did the initial design for the school. It was brought in by the OFCC.

10 YEARS AGO

The district noticed problems at the building beginning in 2011, two years after it opened.

“We were doing spot repairs as we found them,” said Lacy, who took over as the district’s business operations director last year.

Through much of this period, the district was operating under its 10-year construction warranty.

Hively Construction of Canfield initially was contracted to build Willard, but it was removed from the project before it was completed. Lacy said he does not know why Hively was removed.

DeSalvo Construction of Hubbard was hired to complete the project.

“The state of Ohio has a lot of skin in this, too. It was the state-approved architects that did most of the work on the building,” Lacy said.

“At this time, any legal action would be prohibited by OFCC, since the statute of limitations has run out, as well as the statute of repose,” Benton said.

In addition to the roofing problem, Lacy said the district also had a problem because the building’s restroom stack was incorrectly installed, causing an odor in the building. In addition, an 8-inch drain spout was going into a 4-inch drain, causing periodic flooding.

“The problem was somewhere between design and construction,” he said.

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