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Subcontractor's Alleged Violation of Federal Law Could Delay Cherokee School Opening

The opening of the replacement E.T. Booth Middle School could be delayed to January 2014 due to a subcontractor not abiding by federal mandated employee wage scales

A subcontractor's alleged lack of compliance with federally-mandated employee wage scales could possibly delay the opening of the replacement E.T. Booth Middle School facility in Towne Lake.

Cherokee County School District staff on Thursday informed the School Board of the possibility and how it plans to handle the delay.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo said due to the school district utilizing low-interest funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, subcontractors who bid on the project must comply with mandates for employee wage scales. 

However, Petruzielo said one subcontractor on the project "either didn’t understand or feel they didn’t need to comply" with federal regulations.

Manhattan Construction is the general contractor on the project, and they are responsible making sure its subcontractors comply with state and federal laws. 

The subcontractor in question, Thompson Grading, allegedly violated the Davis Bacon Act of 1931

The law states contractors or subcontractors working on federally funded projects on public buildings or public works "must pay their laborers and mechanics employed under the contract no less than the locally prevailing wages and fringe benefits for corresponding work on similar projects in the area," according to the U.S. Department of Labor

In a letter to Manhattan, the district writes that the subcontractor's alleged lack of compliance "negatively impacted" their ability to stick to the project's timeline, which caused the delay.

"This doesn’t cost the school system anything," Petruzielo told the school board, adding general contractors the district hires for projects are responsible for the subcontractors they bring on. "(There's) not an error or mismanagement problem for the school system."

The opening of the new facility would allow the Booth Middle to offer sixth- through eighth-grade levels, bringing it in line with the grade configuration of its other middle schools. 

It would also allow the elementary schools that feed into Booth to allow its rising fourth-grade students to serve out their fifth grade year at their current elementary schools. 

With the possibility of Manhattan not completing the project by the start of the fall 2013 semester, Assistant Superintendent of School Operations Dr. Brian Hightower added the district will use Chapman Intermediate to house sixth grade students and keep the current seventh and eighth-grade model at Booth.

He noted staff will have to work out "tricky" areas such as staging for buses and staffing.

Hightower said Manhattan Construction still believe "they can pull this thing out of the fire," but he added the district will know more in March.

Once completed, the new school will accommodate 1,500 students, which would make it the district's largest middle school. The building will have roughly 95 classrooms, a gym, art and music rooms, a cafeteria, separate entrances for buses and cars and computer labs. 

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