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PUETZ: Setting the record straight on Longfellow School

By Mark Puetz

Puetz Corporation was hired as the construction manager at risk for the Longfellow School project. Koch Hazard was hired as architect. A public bid occurred for all bid packages for Longfellow School.

Terrazzo flooring was designed into the project because of its durability and lower operating cost over a 5- to 10-year period when considering alternative lower-cost flooring replacement and maintenance.

Hawkeye Flooring was the low bid contractor for the terrazzo flooring. During the project, Puetz manages and oversees schedules, quality and safety of contractors on site. Each contractor is required to follow plans and specifications. However, because contractors sometimes don't follow plans and specifications, the construction manager at risk is also responsible for seeing any errors and requiring corrective action.

During the terrazzo prep and installation, there were constant delays by Hawkeye. Either they didn't staff the project properly, or there were issues with their installation process. These issues were brought forth by Puetz's onsite superintendent. However, Hawkeye refused to fix some issues involving poor quality terrazzo grinding, levelness of the terrazzo, cracking and improper rework. Puetz held back payment from Hawkeye until it fixed the issues or was willing to forgo the remainder of its contract amount so another company could fix the issues. This all was after Puetz hired a third-party terrazzo inspector to collect facts, and give a recommendation to Puetz Corp. and the school district. It is always important to actually collect facts before going off on a wild tangent, even if you have experience in the field you are reviewing. Eventually, through the first steps of a legal challenge between Puetz and Hawkeye, Puetz was able to settle the claim and get the terrazzo problem fixed without additional costs to the district for rework, inspection or legal bills.

This is the fix that Joe Graves and Dan Beukelman were referring to. I also want to note that this is what construction managers do. They take responsibility for problems if proper installation did not initially occur. This would most likely not be the case with the traditional architect/general contractor delivery method where the school would have been on the hook for legal, inspection and rework costs. This was the first major issue with Hawkeye.

Around September 2012, delamination of terrazzo started to occur in Longfellow School. Puetz brought in a third party inspector to cut into the delaminated terrazzo to determine what the issue was. To be clear, this process took more than three months, due to inspector travel, sampling, lab investigating, analysis and reporting time. The flooring issue was not fully understood at the time Rod Hall and Tara Volesky were bringing up issues of terrazzo.

Once Puetz found out improperly applied prep material was the cause of the problem, Puetz started looking for ways to solve the issue. Though the initial findings on the terrazzo were known in January, final information wasn't known until June. How can Hall and Volesky talk about having all the facts on the issue when Puetz Corporation or the school district didn't have all the facts yet?

Finally, after legal discussions between Puetz and Hawkeye and two additional third-party inspections by different companies between January and June, Puetz recommend to the school district to remove and replace the terrazzo flooring at Longfellow over the next two to three summers and replace it using other, reputable terrazzo installation companies. Again, the school district is not paying for any of the rework, legal costs or inspection costs, and in the end will have a quality floor because of a responsible construction manager.

-- Mark Puetz, of Mitchell, is project coordinator for Puetz Corp.