Angels on the hot seat

ELA Group’s Ed Angel Sr. (back left) and Ed Angle Jr. present their case to the Webster Parish School Board in a special meeting last week.

Water, weather and wildly escalating material prices were cited as reasons nearly one million dollars more might be necessary to complete a multi-purpose building at Minden High School, a project that was originally bid at $9.908 million.

ELA Group, Inc. officials Ed Angel Sr. and Ed Angel Jr. presented their case for needing an additional $974,728 to members of the Webster Parish School Board’s building and grounds committee Thursday, but found the going a little rough.

“Do we have any specific contractual obligation to honor these price increases or is this solely based on a request?” District 4 board member Jonathan Guthrie asked following a lengthy discussion on difficulties with the project.

“I don’t believe there is an escalation clause, this is unforeseen. No, there’s no clause to grant this request,” Angel Jr. responded. “We’re here as a request. We’re not demanding anything.”

Ed Angel Sr. had earlier told the committee his company needed help from the board, calling conditions with the project “…the most unconventional environment any of us have been exposed to.”

“We are experiencing simply unprecedented issues that are not typical to construction and I’ve been in the business nearly 40 years,” he said. “We’re used to dealing with normal price fluctuations, but prices are increasing even after placing orders.”

According to both Angels, problems have stemmed from unanticipated difficulties dealing with ground water at the site. Those difficulties have resulted in delays of nearly 12 months, while prices for supplies and materials spiraled upward.

As a result, Angel Sr. said, subcontractors have been reluctant to continue work unless something is done about the rising costs. 

Already, roughly $690,000 in change orders have been approved on the project.

“Many of those are tied to mitigating the ground water problems,” Angel Jr. said. “We’re not here to place blame, these are issues that are beyond the contractor’s control.”

Angel Jr. pointed out that the $974,728 his company was requesting “…would be to cover price increases only; increases nobody anticipated. We’re all frustrated. We’d rather not come to you at all .”

Additional money requested to cover price increases include just over $366,000 for HVAC sub The Payne Co., which showed an original bid of $1.751 million; $130,922 for brick veneer sub DRP Masonry (original bid of $872,000) and $95,297 for metal framing and acoustical ceiling sub Alliance Construction (original bid, $305,293).

A list of 20 subcontractors was provided to the board’s committee members showing original bids and amounts requested to cover price increases.  

Angel Jr. said his company would be willing to absorb any other costs beyond the price increases since the high risk areas have been overcome. “We expect no major unforeseen circumstances…we’re confident we can mitigate any additional costs.”

When asked what might happen if the committee did not recommend approval of the requested increases to the school board, Angel Jr. indicated the matter could go to court.

“We may have to take legal action as far as part of the specs that were inaccurate in relation to the ground water issue,” he responded. “That won’t help anything. We’re open to any discussions to a fair and reasonable solution. We’re not delivering ultimatums.”

Project Architect Perry Watson with Yeager Watson & Assoc. Inc., agreed with earlier statements that the parish school board is not obligated by contract to grant the request for additional money.

“I do not find contract means by which ELA Group or anyone is due extension or payment for circumstances such as we’re seeing here,” he said. “I sympathize with subs and contractors, but I do not find merit to award additional costs.” 

Standing water at the building site.