SPRINGFIELD TWP.: Some Springfield students will have more than graduation hanging over their heads next year. In 24 classrooms at the new combination junior and senior high school, tons of steel will be suspended from the ceilings in an attempt to stop the shaking caused by people moving in the room above.
The steel, in the form of spring-loaded plates, or dampers, will weigh down the second floor and absorb vibrations that school officials identified as “very annoying” and “not very conducive to education.”
Repairs to the classrooms and Field House have added $884,762 to the $33.5 million project, funded 75 percent by local taxes and 25 percent by the state.
The vibrations, first identified in March, prompted doubts that the buildings would open this fall as planned. An attorney speaking for the district said the building should now be ready by mid-December.
For now, the school district is shouldering that cost while lawyers figure out who should pay for the design changes. The builder is Mike Coates Construction Co. of Niles, and the architect is MKC Associates Inc. of New Philadelphia.
“The Board is currently working with the OFCC [Ohio Facilities Construction Commission] to determine the parties responsible for these problems and will seek to recover from them for the related costs,” Chris McCloskey, a construction lawyer representing Springfield schools, wrote in a project update prompted by questions from the Beacon Journal.
Meanwhile, an attorney representing Coates Construction, which installed the flooring, says the state and the school district have provided no documents that analyze the problem, designate blame or assure that the building would be safe under the additional weight from the steel plating.
“We want to see the engineering and the analysis of these dampers that will show that the installation of these dampers will not undermine the integrity of the floor,” said Rick Goddard, a Cleveland attorney representing Coates Construction.
Goddard said his client followed every guideline laid out by the architect. He also said a project manager working for the school was on hand to approve every stage of the construction process.
He asserts that cracks in the concrete are a result of the unstable floor and not construction.
“If you go up on your toes and then down, the floor literally bounces,” he said. “We believe it’s because the floor has been under-designed. The more rigid you make that floor, the less it’s going to bounce.”
Goddard said sub-flooring materials, which hold the concrete in place, and reinforcing wire, which strengthens the concrete after hardening, were not up to par. “The cheaper you make it, the flimsier it’s going to be,” he said.
Not a cheap solution
Though the architect was not available for comment, a letter from David Zeller, the project architect for MKC, to Superintendent William Stauffer, who directed questions to McCloskey, indicates that an attempt in March to stiffen the trusses that hold up the second floor was unsuccessful. Zeller then proposed the use of dampers.
Two options were given. Either use one or two dampers per room. Goddard and McCloskey said each plate weighs at least a half ton each. With two plates per room, that’s 2,200 to 3,300 additional pounds hanging over students’ heads.
The school chose the second option, two dampers per room, but not with the approval of the architect, who said one would suffice.
“… MKC is of the position that it cannot endorse the extra cost incurred under the second option simply because it felt better to members of the Board,” the letter stated.
The total cost of materials was $713,600, making up the majority of the more than $884,000 in repairs.
Is it safe?
To install the dampers, the district hired Selinksy Force, a subcontractor for Mike Coates Construction, for $146,187. Coates Construction would not install the dampers without assurance that they would be safe, Goddard said.
The first attempt to suspend one of the 3-by-3-foot steel dampers was unsuccessful when the four bolts that secure it slipped through the concrete.
McCloskey said bolts now are welded to small plates to prevent another slip. He also said each damper is suspended by metal brackets fastened to the ceiling. The bolts pull the floor down tight to the damper, flexing the mechanism’s springs and reducing the floor’s wobble.
Meanwhile, he said, Springfield and the state will work with contractors and designers to reach an amicable resolution.
“We’re obviously hopeful that all these issues work themselves out, but it’s all under investigation at this point,” McCloskey said in an interview.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.