FLMS certificate expires, officials get 60-day extension

Jeremy Nash-News-Herald

Despite pushing for completion by the end of August, Fort Loudoun Middle School's remaining punch list items have forced officials to acquire an extended 60-day temporary certificate of occupancy.

State Fire Marshal Ron Jones said an extension was administered Sept. 5 to give Merit Construction more time to finish the building's punch list. He said all critical safety issues had been addressed on the occupied portion of the building.

"(There are) several things which they're not completed with, but none of which are life safety issues," Director of Schools Jason Vance said.

Some lingering interior issues include replacing uneven floor tiles, adding mechanical unit ducts, installing the gym bleachers, laying the gym floor and fixing the auditorium bleachers. As it currently stands, a row of bleachers blocks the auditorium's emergency exit, Vance said.

The left side of the building has been shut off from students so Merit Construction can finish the gym and auditorium, Principal Christie Amburn said. She said construction laborers were working evenings and weekends to complete the punch list.

Patrick O'Hara, vice president for Merit Construction, said he hoped to modify the auditorium's seating and install the gym's bleachers this week. The gym floor should be finished next week, he said.

"We'll have everything done by (the school's grand opening)," O'Hara said. "I mean, we're doing minor punch list items as we can in the evenings. There's no major punch list items to be done."

Lingering exterior issues include reseeding the grassy areas, removing scattered dirt clods, installing walkways to the ball fields and placing school signage near Steekee Road, Vance said.

Loudon County Board of Education Chairman Bobby Johnson Jr. said he had been receiving concerns about the lack of painted turn lanes leading to U.S. Highway 11.

"One of the big concerns ... is painting the lines down there for the turn lanes and stuff," Johnson said. "It's very dangerous down there. That needs to be taken care of and needs -- they said something about 'Well, they got to put another, got some more paving or something.' Well, it doesn't matter what they like. They need to go ahead and put some paint down on it, and we can repaint it when they get done because it's very dangerous. I've had a lot of phone calls on it."

BOE member Leroy Tate said a portion of the school's roof above the sixth-grade wing needed to be inspected.

Johnson said Vance was going to meet with Merit Construction to look at the roof.

"I think they're going to put some sheeting," Vance said. "I think they're going to make it -- I understand that the roof itself is appropriate and the way that it's put into place, but cosmetically we'd like to see it look a little bit differently than what it currently does. So they're going to do some things to doctor that up a little bit, make sure it looks presentable and appropriate."

The $16 million building's grand opening is Oct. 24, Vance said. He said Merit Construction should be able to do "everything in the world" to complete the punch list before students and teachers return to class from fall break.

Tate said he was frustrated with how Merit Construction had handled the project, and it would be difficult to tell what was caused by them and what was caused by "normal wear and tear."

"It's just asinine some of the stuff that's going on, the way they're going about and correcting stuff," Tate said. "I don't know, I just haven't seen nothing like it."

Vance said he was appreciative of Merit Construction's work, and he was ready for them to finish so the school system could own the whole building.

"We knew that we were going to run into some time constraints with the way the weather played out over the past year and a half with as much rain as we've received," Vance said. "But ... it is frustrating. I mean, you know, because it's simply not complete. You can't utilize your full space. Kids need to be in the gym. Kids need to be in the auditorium. You know, we just need full access to our complete building."