Dirt Removal Caused Messy Streets, Increased Cost for School Projects

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A view of the design for the new Cunniff Elementary School. The old building has been demolished, and the first parts of the steel for the new school has been delivered. Dirt from excavation getting on the street has been an issue at both Cunniff and Hosmer, in East Watertown.

Hundreds of truckloads of soil have been removed from the building sites of the new Hosmer and Cunniff elementary schools, which has caused a bit of a mess on nearby streets and added to the cost of the project.

Last week, the School Building Committee received a report on the progress of the projects, and also approved a change order that added nearly $450,000 to the project (but was still within the total project budget).

The first pieces of steel were delivered to Cunniff on Sept. 14, and school officials are planning a topping off ceremony for the week of Oct. 12 to commemorate the placing of last piece of steel, said Vivian Varbedian, owner project manager for the district who is with Hill International. Steel will begin arriving at Hosmer the week of Oct. 12, and a topping off ceremony is anticipated there sometime before Thanksgiving, Varbedian said.

To make way for the foundations of the new schools, truckloads of soil have been removed from both sites, said Town Council President Mark Sideris, who chairs the School Building Committee

“The subcontractor hired to transport the dirt is removing 60-70 loads a day, which is unheard of,” Sideris said.

Sideris said he and others have received calls from residents complaining about dirt being left on the roads when the trucks leave the site, particularly on Warren Street near Cunniff and Mt. Auburn Street near Hosmer.

“We will make sure we comply and do what’s right, we don’t need these kinds of issues this early on,” Sideris said.

The construction contractors, Brait Builders, have been asked to increase efforts to remove dirt from the streets, Varbedian said.

“We asked for street cleaning to be increased, on a daily basis — half the date at Cunniff and a half day at Hosmer — to make sure Mt. Auburn and Boylston are clean and swept, along with the area around Cunniff.”

A rendering of what the new Hosmer Elementary School will look like.

A representative from Brait said that a wheel cleaning station will be used at Hosmer School to reduce the amount of dirt tracked onto the roadways. Such a station (where wheels are sprayed with water to remove dirt) is not possible at Cunniff because the school is at the top of a small hill, so the dirt would wash down onto the street. In an effort to cut down the amount of dirt getting onto the roadway, three inches of gravel has been laid down at Cunniff.

The added cost came from the disposal of soil with certain kinds of metals and minerals, said project architect Scott Dunlap from Ai3.

The change order totaled $449,515.96 to the project, but Dunlap said that it started much higher than that.

“Two items, totaling about $490,000 began as claims from the site subcontractor as a claim for $1 million,” Dunlap said. “Over the past four months, we negotiated the amounts down from wellover $1 million to under $500,000.”

The minerals and metals in the soil are typical of soil in Watertown, Dunlap said, but the amount was not anticipated. Lori Kabel, the Town’s Director of Facilities, asked why the of soil with the extra cost was not projected. Dunlap said some soil sampling was done around the site, but could not be done under the area where the buildings stood or where it was covered by asphalt.

There was also a smaller amount of added cost for the services of the moving company. An additional 1,500 boxes were needed, at $3 a box, plus additional tape and bubble wrap for musical instruments, Varbedian said. The additional cost was $4,720.

The amount of the change order would have been higher, Varbedian said, except the district received a refund of nearly $80,000 when the cost of asbestos removal came in below what was budgeted at Cunniff. The asbestos removal cost at Hosmer is expected to come in lower, too, Varbedian said, but the final amount has not been tallied yet.

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