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The footing on the course for repairing the multipurpose athletic field at Collins High School appears to be as unsure as it would be for an athlete or band member who might try to play on its ineffective and dangerous artificial surface.
In fact, the plan for that repair seems to be changing so rapidly, we aren’t sure that the contractor, Whittenberg Construction, and Shelby County Public Schools are reading from the same page at the same time.
Those are the impressions certainly with which we were left on Thursday when news developments started to pop up as quickly and almost as mysteriously as the breaches that were discovered in that surface last May.
First SCPS seemed to be prepared to move forward without the support of the installing contractors and pay for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs out of its general fund and ready to solicit new bids for the work.
We were to presume that by so doing the Shelby County School Board then would seek to recoup that cost through legal channels against those who did the work originally.
Then, almost before the last syllable of that statement even was uttered, there came a statement from an official at Whittenberg, who said, yes, the company would go ahead with the repairs immediately.
District officials had set a deadline of Thursday afternoon for Whittenberg to begin the work, so we were left to understand that the company’s saying it would start the project constituted actually starting.
Still, despite that level of agreement, there also seemed to be a fair amount of uncertainty whether Whittenberg would pursue the modifications in the manner that SCPS was insisting:
The repairs should be total and should not be made by the same subcontractors who had had installed the field in an apparent shoddy manner in the summer of 2010.
In fact SCPS Superintendent James Neihof said that using those same subcontractors would be a “deal-breaker.” We agree that it should be.
But this, to us, really should be a no-brainer solution:
The installation work was problematic and ultimately ineffective – if not in fact hazardous – and the contractor must stand behind that work.
If Whittenberg finds fault with the performance of one of its subcontractors, then let Whittenberg pursue that remedy through channels at its disposal.
Shelby County Public Schools paid good money for a state-of-the-art surface that was installed not only because of its operational efficiency but because in the long run it would save the district in costs.
After not even one full year of use, however, this field became such a hazard that it was sealed off by yellow crime-scene tape and closed for the entire school year.
Taxpayers should not have to pay another cent for this field, not in repair costs or legal fees – or even a penny of interest that might be lost by having to front the repair costs from the school district’s contingency fund pending reimbursement.
The students who attend Collins High School, many of whom ultimately should be playing on the field, are held to their work and graded appropriately. If they fail, they must either repeat the work or try to make up for it with a better effort. That is their “contract” between school and student.
We suggest that Whittenberg Construction has no less of an obligation to its original contract and should have no less a standard for success than a student.
And, if it continues to fail, it should stay after school until the work ultimately is completed.