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Weather delays for school expansion costs Los Banos school district

A crane lifts part of a building onto its base as construction continues on installing new classrooms to Mercey Springs Elementary School March 2, 2017.
A crane lifts part of a building onto its base as construction continues on installing new classrooms to Mercey Springs Elementary School March 2, 2017. vshanker@losbanosenterprise.com

Rain delays will cost the Los Banos Unified School District Board an extra $59,870 to complete a school expansion project.

The school board approved the extension to Bush Construction’s contract for the amount after the Hanford-based contractor claimed it couldn’t hit the targeted March 22 deadline to complete the expansion of Mercey Springs Elementary.

The project is expected to double the size and capacity of the school, installing 14 new classrooms to house a maximum of 444 new students.

Buildings have been installed, but a representative of Bush Construction said the contractor has run out of contracted rain days, and asked for an extension to the roughly $280,000 construction manager contract.

When asked why the delays occurred, Richard Jacobs from Bush Construction said the winter’s many rainfalls caused issues with construction of the buildings in Bakersfield, as well as the foundation at the school site.

Trustee Dennis Areias blamed one current and three former trustees for the need for an extension.

Areias argued that the project would have been finished before the winter, and the rains, if Trustee Marlene Smith and former trustees Tommy Jones, Carole Duffy and Dominic Falasco hadn’t approved local contractor OP Construction as the construction manager for the Mercey Springs project.

OP Construction owner Greg Opinski and former trustee Tommy Jones are alleged to have bribed former Trustee Dominic Falasco for his swing vote for Opinski’s company, which was about twice as expensive as Bush Construction’s bid. Falasco voted while working undercover with the Merced County District Attorney’s Office to uncover the alleged corruption.

When Opinski and Jones were formally arrested on felony bribery charges last fall, the school board canceled the contract and gave it to Bush Construction. Both men have pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in the case.

“But because of the corruption in the community, Jones has cost us another $59,000,” Areias said.

Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562

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