On May 18, the Webster Parish School Board held a special session of the Building and Grounds Committee to discuss the construction of the Minden High School multipurpose building.
The general contractor, ELA Group Inc, was awarded the contract in January of 2021 for the amount of $9,908,100. It was originally scheduled to be completed by November 2022. At this time, the project is only 56% complete, and ELA Group has submitted and received several change orders totaling approximately $600,000 in additional funds.
Both Edward Angel Sr. and Edward Angel Jr. of ELA Group spoke to the committee. They stated that unexpected excessive groundwater at the site caused a 10-12 month delay of the project.
“What should have taken about 90 days took about 6-8 months to complete — just the concrete work,” said Angel Jr. “I will say that it was a very extensive and heavy civil project with concrete. It should have never taken that long, but did due to the excessive groundwater that was unknown to our team.”
Because of this delay, ordering supplies was delayed. Those supplies became more difficult to receive and more expensive as well. Many of their subcontractors and vendors are now refusing to proceed with the work without price increases over what was originally forecasted.
“We’re talking about issues of price increases that nobody anticipated, nobody had any idea that they were going to come in the magnitude they came,” said Angel Sr. “I’ve never seen it like this. And I’m sure that everybody else who has dealt with this issue in the past two years has experienced it in some form or fashion, though maybe not to this extent.”
They are requesting another $900,000 for material price increases.
Now that the slab is complete, including the 20’ deep piers which were needed, they believe the rest of the project should move smoothly. They estimate it will be completed by the end of 2023.
The purpose of the meeting was for discussion only, with no decisions being made. School board members questioned the Angels about their contracts, who had performed the site survey, their knowledge of similar groundwater problems with the MHS football stadium which sits at an even lower elevation, and the possibility of litigation. Everyone, including the ELA Group, appeared frustrated and concerned by the whole situation. The work will continue with the supplies currently available, though whether the school board will be willing to give additional funding toward this project remains to be seen.
The next school board meeting will be held on June 12 at 6 PM. The public is welcome to attend.