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Collins High School’s multipurpose athletic field has hit yet another snag as it lies awaiting repair: The dirt beneath it isn’t suitable.
The field, which was closed for use 10 months ago after soft spots were found underneath the turf, is now just dirt, with the entire turf and drainage system removed and the original hope that it would be finished by the end of March is now not possible. The field cost $868,000 when the school opened in 2010.
Now, after the school had to relocate all its home football and boys' and girls' soccer games last fall, all the home track meets have been canceled as well.
The goal now is to have the field ready before fall sports season begins, which is July 15 on the Kentucky High School Activities Association’s calendar.
The findings by both Vector Engineering, employed by the school district, and GEM Engineering, employed by Whittenberg Construction, the general contractor for the project, agree that the soil that was underneath the field has too high a level of plasticity.
"That's not the source of failure, but when the water did encounter it, the soil was subject to more expansion," Shelby County Superintendent James Neihof said. "The result is something has to be done about the soil before we can put the turf back on."
When the field was built, ATC Associates, a geotechnical engineering firm with an office in Simpsonville and headquartered in Lafayette, La., signed off on the soil as meeting specifications.
But the new findings that the soil doesn’t meet specifications leave the district in a difficult spot.
To repair the field now, 5 inches of soil must be removed, and lime stabilization will be used to secure the field beneath the turf.
This process requires lime to be tilled 16 inches into the dirt and for that combination to be compacted into a concrete-like hardness. After that lime stabilization, a 3-inch layer of small rocks is added on top to make the field level and to provide the proper pitch before the turf and drainage system is laid back in place.
However, officials of Whittenberg Construction claim that because it was not responsible for the soil inspection – and subsequent incorrect specifications – it is not responsible for the cost of removing the soil. Neihof agrees.
"Since they were not responsible for the soil under the field, they don't believe they should be responsible," he said. "So what we've agreed to for now is that for the soil removed, the lime stabilization and stone on top, I will be asking the [school] board for a change order."
However, he was quick to note that even though the district will have pay for this upfront, it doesn't mean it would be responsible for the cost in the long run. That price is not yet known.
Once the change order is approved by the board, the timeline would be easier to put together.
"Once everything is said and done, after mediation and possible litigation, it doesn't mean we'll be the ultimate payer," he said. "To this point the contractor has had the all the burden of expense, and I don't want to stop the project to go after someone else about the soil."
District officials knew a snag could be possible at this point of the project, but Neihof said they are still hopeful that the field can be ready for the next sports season.
"We just didn't know what we would find when we tested all the soil," he said. "But they haven't told me that it [the July 15 deadline] is impossible. We'll know more once we get the contractor for the lime stabilization [which will have to come from out of state] and find out when they can be here."