Meeker consultant questions ability of contractor to fix school

MEEKER — A consultant for the Meeker School District Tuesday night voiced concern that revelations regarding the contractor for a botched elementary school project could affect the company’s capacity to pay for repairs to the building.

Jim West has served as the owner’s representative for the district in connection with construction of the year-old Meeker Elementary School. He told the district school board by telephone Tuesday that concerns about the Neenan Co,, reported by the Denver Post, could have financial impacts on the company that could dilute its ability to take care of structural issues with the school. He said he wants to see the district get the repairs made quickly in case Neenan’s finances deteriorate.

“I might as well say it publicly. I want to get to the feeding trough first. I’ll say that for a fact. I want to get there while the getting’s good,” West said.

In an interview after Tuesday’s meeting, Meeker school superintendent Susan Goettel called West’s concern conjecture, but added that it had crossed her mind as well.

The elementary school needs structural repairs to prevent lateral movement from forces such as high wind and earthquakes. The district closed the school this year and is teaching its students in other district buildings until repairs are made.

Neenan built the school under a design/build contract. The company has committed to cover the costs of repair. However, the Post reported Sunday that Neenan’s structural engineer on the project, Gary Howell, had for months dismissed initial concerns about the school’s stability as unfounded.

The Post also raised questions about the state’s oversight of the project, and said state agencies are reviewing other Neenan projects in Colorado. On Tuesday, it reported that Neenan had fired Howell the previous day, the state was investigating Howell’s work on the school, and he had worked on the Meeker project with a lapsed license.

West said if Howell lacked a current license, it would appear Neenan violated its contract with the district, which required it to use licensed architects and engineers.

The school board set a special meeting for Nov. 29 to hear the results of soil testing and possibly approve moving ahead with repairs if those results are positive.

Goettel said Neenan president Randy Myers has offered to attend that meeting. But West indicated that would be a political gesture of no help to technical discussions on proceeding with repairs.

“Mr. Myers contributes nothing to that, in my opinion,” West said.


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