Centennial Secondary’s construction saga slogs toward finish

Following demolition in 2018, construction at Centennial Secondary encountered a series of setbacks. photo supplied School District #43

More than four years after the start of a construction process marred by delays as well as a legal battle, the end is “partially” in sight at Centennial Secondary.

Crews have made progress on the long-awaited school gymnasium, according to the district’s executive director of facilities and planning Ivano Cecchini.

“We are very, very close to being able to have partial occupancy,” Cecchini told the school board Tuesday night. “Our hope is certainly to have students in the gymnasium as soon as possible and then we will continue to work on other parts of the building.”

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Following a B.C. Supreme Court judgment in 2021, the school district was allowed to hold onto $4.3 million to insulate the district from any liens connected to disputes with a previous contractor.

While the district was able to choose a new contractor, the school district can’t exert much control over when things get done, according to Cecchini.

“One of the limitations, however, is the inability for the school district to force any sort of action with reference to timeline or schedule,” he said.

The project is also slated to include classrooms, a weight room and a neighbourhood learning centre space. The gym has been the primary focus, according to Cecchini.

“Our intent is to continue to work with all parties to have it completed as soon as we possibly can,´ Cecchini said.

photo supplied School District #43

A brief project history

The project went up for tender in 2012, noted School District #43 board chair Michael Thomas.

“None of us were on the board then so don’t blame us,” he joked.

In April of 2019, the school district acknowledged construction “was proceeding very slowly.”

“We have been taking steps to get the construction back on track. As a result of the steps we have taken, we anticipate that a general contractor will be retained soon and will be in a position to recommence construction and to complete the second building as quickly as possible,” the district stated in 2019.

The district announced the signing of a new contractor in September 2019.

By February 2020, workers had re-started construction on the building.

Crews had to fix “various deficiencies” in the building that fall and faced a slowdown early in 2021, according to releases from the school district.

The school district and contractor were “working closely together as we move towards completing this project,” according to a statement from the district released in November 2021.

By February 2022, floor installation had started on the gym. The project seemed close to completion by April.

“All of the gym floor boards have been placed with sanding, line painting and bleacher installations expected to wrap up in the next few weeks. The majority of the flooring, millwork, and plumbing fixture installations have been completed. The remainder of the building cladding and envelope work is underway,” the district stated in an April release.

Dealing with contractors

The school district’s process for dealing with contractors has been completely revamped since issuing that tender in 2012, according to Cecchini.

“[Contractors] no longer only have to qualify for bonding to be able to get issued the tender award,” he told the school board.

The school district will now check references to ensure the contractor can finish the work.

“Now, our contractors go through a complete process. We receive references. We actually do interviews,” he said.

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