'No issues' after latest RBHS fieldhouse fix

Officials reveal that the building level was lowered to save money

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By BOB SKOLNIK

New sealant has been applied to the Riverside-Brookfield High School fieldhouse in the hopes of stopping water from seeping into the building after heavy rains.

"The sealant job has been completed, and we haven't experienced any issues thus far," said District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis.

The sealant work done at no cost to the district by Wight & Co., the architects of the fieldhouse, Skinkis said.

Last fall an application of sealant did not solve the water seepage problem. Water periodically seeping into the fieldhouse had been a problem ever since it was built about three years ago.

Recently workers have also placed gravel along the north wall of the fieldhouse to try to prevent water from seeping in.

In May, Skinkis revealed to the school board that the fieldhouse was built at a lower level than the rest of the school as a cost-saving move.

Skinkis recently met with Ed Faren, the lead architect on the RBHS project, to discuss a few ongoing problems with the building. Skinkis said that he was told that the original plans called for the fieldhouse to be built at the same level of the rest of the school.

"Those plans were changed," Skinkis said in May. "The fieldhouse was not meant to be a step-down facility. "The board [of education] approved a change order to save some of the cost related to the backfill, the labor and some of the supplies and materials that were going to be used to make that level with the rest of the school. The original plans called for that to be at a higher grade, level with the school."

Skinkis said that he was told that decision to build the fieldhouse at a lower level than the rest of the school was made to save money.

"That decision was made during the construction process, in the budget development process, as we got halfway through the project to make it about 24 to 27 inches lower than the original building, so they did confirm that," Skinkis told the board.

Board members John Keen and Tim Walsh, who make up Skinkis' facility advisory committee, also participated in a walk-though of the school with Faren, Skinkis and Joel Hatje, RBHS' new facilities director.

Keen said that they were told that the decision to build the fieldhouse at a slightly lower level than the rest of the school saved around $200,000. Looking at it in retrospect Keen said that may have not been the best decision.

"They said that they didn't elevate the fieldhouse because it would cost over $200,000 approximately to fill it," Keen said. "So the decision was not to do that, save the money. But in retrospect they should have put something, half a foot in there or something, but they didn't do it."

However, two former school board members who were intimately involved with the construction decisions strongly defended the decision to build at a slightly lower level to save money.

They said that the move saved the district around $250,000.

"It was a slam dunk to save the $250,000 and put it toward something else," said former school board President Larry Herbst. "We saved foundation cost and landfill cost. We would have had to have foundation coming up two feet higher than the level of the earth."

Herbst recalled that issues involving a pipe belonging to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District underneath the site of the fieldhouse nearly forced the school to build a fieldhouse with only two basketball courts. Saving the $250,000 by building slightly below grade allowed the money to be put toward building a bigger fieldhouse with three full-length courts.

"We saved $250,000 and we were able to get the third basketball court out of the deal," Herbst said.

Former board member Bill McCloskey also said that he has no second thoughts about building slightly below the level of the rest of the school. He said those involved in the construction project knew that building slightly below grade could result in a problem with water seepage. The decision was well thought out, McCloskey said.

"It was the right decision," McCloskey said. "I'd still make it today. Quarter of a million dollars is a lot of money."

McCloskey added that Faren said if a problem arose due to the change, "it would probably be a very easy fix."

"[Faren] did not think there was going to be a major problem, and from what I understand it's not a major problem, and the fix is going to be relatively inexpensive," McCloskey said.

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