Reviews under way at CMS, East Elementary |

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Reviews under way at CMS, East Elementary

Firm brought in after structural flaws found in other Neenan Co. projects

Grant Wade, 11, a Craig Middle School sixth-grader, grabs his backpack from his locker at the end of school Wednesday. The Moffat County School District has brought in KL&A, Inc., a structural engineer and building firm out of Golden, to conduct an independent review of the middle school’s structural integrity. The Neenan Co., the general contractor for CMS construction, has recently come under scrutiny after structural issues were discovered at other schools the company built in Colorado.

An independent review of Craig Middle School is under way following the discovery of structural problems at other schools built by The Neenan Co.

Moffat County School District officials chose KL&A, a Colorado-based structural engineering firm, "to immediately begin considering a thorough review of our project," school district superintendent Joe Petrone said.

Neenan was the district's general contractor for the middle school project, which was funded by a $29.5 million bond issue and included construction of a new CMS and upgrades at other district schools.

The district has also directed KL&A to review an upgrade to the East Elementary School cafeteria, another structural project included in the bond package, Petrone said.

A Neenan spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

Moffat County School District officials contacted the firm after structural problems surfaced at Meeker Elementary School, another Neenan project.

Meeker School District RE-1 hired a consulting firm in July to examine the building, which opened in fall 2010, The Denver Post reported Nov. 20.

The company's report revealed several structural problems, such as a weak roof connection and a lack of bracing designed to prevent the classroom wing from collapsing in a fierce windstorm or earthquake, according to the Post.

Meeker Elementary isn't the only Neenan project in Colorado to come under scrutiny.

Structural problems were found at Monte Vista High School in southern Colorado, the Post reported Tuesday.

The company also found flaws in CMS while the building was still under construction.

In spring 2009, Neenan discovered steel joists on the building's second floor were too small, which caused the floor to be uneven in several places. The problem was found less than six months away from the middle school's scheduled opening.

The problem was attributed to miscalculation because the structure's design was undersized.

The problem was later fixed and passed inspection, Petrone said.

Joel Sheridan, a former assistant superintendent for the school district and the district's construction liaison for the bond project, said he wasn't aware of any other major structural issues discovered during construction.

"That doesn't mean that others might not pop up as time goes on," he said.

Petrone said he learned about structural problems at Meeker Elementary through the Post's article.

The district responded "immediately," he said, and contacted KL&A on Nov. 21, or the day after the article originally published in the Post.

"I became concerned, as maybe many constituency members were concerned," he said.

On Nov. 28, district officials accepted the firm's proposal to review the project.

"It was obvious to us … that there might be a question or two about assurances that we have that our school is meeting all the required codes," Petrone said "…We're not expecting there to be a problem, but I think the public deserves a thorough inspection and that's what we're doing.

"Of course, we believe (the building is structurally sound), and we have no reason to believe otherwise, but for the assurances that we believe would be necessary … we went with an independent firm immediately to begin that thorough review."

The review will come at no cost to the school district.

Petrone said he spoke with a Neenan official Wednesday and was assured the company will cover costs.

However, the scope of the issue is still unclear, said Ted Hughes, director of the Colorado Department of Education's Building Excellent Schools Today program, which provides competitive grants for school construction and renovation.

"I don't know if there's … a systemic kind of a problem yet or not," he said.

The education department has directed Neenan to bring in third-party structural engineers to review their projects funded by BEST grants, Hughes said. The projects do not include Craig Middle School, since it was not funded by BEST money.

At this point, the education department's involvement in the issue is limited.

"We're not paying for any investigations at this point," Hughes said.

"We're providing whatever assistance we can and advice we can, but we're not directly involved in funding it or addressing it at this point."

But, "That could change depending on what these investigations turn up," he said.

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