Orchard Heights finally getting its roof replaced

It’s rare when a recession provides a positive external benefit.

But that’s what South Kitsap School District facilities director Tom O’Brien said has occurred at Orchard Heights Elementary School, where the east wing of the roof is being replaced.

District officials have looked to replace the roof on the east wing of the school for years — O’Brien said engineers recommended it as far back as 1995 — but failed levies have made it unaffordable.

O’Brien said it also was a supply-and-demand issue as contractors were busy with private projects when the economy was stronger in 2006-07. That isn’t the case anymore, and construction projects are less expensive.

“We kind of had this perfect storm of good fortunate,” O’Brien said. “We put this project together for a very, very low price compared to what we expected to pay.”

Because this is a “critical project,” assistant superintendent for business and support services Terri Patton said they depleted their capital-projects fund to replace the roof.

O’Brien said the project, which began in late June, should be completed by mid-August.

He said the projected was slated for completion until 2011, but feared that putting it off any longer could create further damage and increase expenses. There is inflation, which he felt could have made it a $1.5 million to $1.7 million project.

In addition to lower construction costs, O’Brien said there were some adjustments to the project. Orchard Heights, which is the district’s largest elementary school at 81,402 square feet, was built in 1945, and the contractors used sheetrock instead of plywood as the roof substrate.

The district replaced the roof on both the west and east wing of the building in 1975. O’Brien said the sheetrock was torn out and replaced on the west wing at that time, but not on the east wing.

The roof on the west wing was replaced again in 2006, but O’Brien said “we didn’t know how to get after this one.” He said the engineer showed him it’s possible to apply the plywood on the east wing without ripping out the sheetrock. O’Brien said that trimmed at least $100,000 off the project.

O’Brien said he also feared that asbestos on the surface of the roof might require many costly precautions before an air-quality test by the Department of Labor & Industries cleared it for removal.

“That asbestos is so tightly wound into the asphalt that there’s no airborne contamination at all,” O’Brien said. “It’s as clean as a whistle.”

The roof, tar-stained in many areas that cover leaks, is being replaced with a white, rubber surface. It also will be insulated, which O’Brien said will save the district in energy expenses in addition to providing a more pleasant conditions for students and staff.

Only the roofs on the 17 tip-outs around the school won’t be replaced this summer. O’Brien estimated that project will cost between $125,000 to $150,000, and he said the district has applied for a grant from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. He said they should receive an answer by the end of summer and work could begin during the school year.

O’Brien has budgeted $503,000 for the east wing. He said that includes a 10 percent contingency — after tax, the total is $457,000 — and the extra money will be returned to the district if it isn’t used.

After the project at Orchard Heights is finished, the district also will replace the roof at the Food and Nutrition Services building on Madrona Drive Southeast.

O’Brien said that project, with the contingency fund, is budgeted for $311,000. He said December’s wind storm blew a 5,000-square foot hole in the roof that now is covered with blue tarp.

“It was time to replace it,” O’Brien said. “It was going to catastrophically fail if we didn’t get after it.”

He said the roof at Burley-Glenwood Elementary also needs to be replaced, but there is no timeline set for that project.

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