Reviewed Ravenna City Schools Working to Resolve Issues in Aftermath of Flood Damage

Nick Walton

William Wisniewski was about to have his first cup of coffee on the morning of Nov. 22 when he received a phone call about the new Ravenna High School.

The new school’s competition gym was flooded.

“It was heart wrenching to walk in and the beautiful competition gym was underwater and the hallway between the competition gym and the field house was completely underwater,” said Wisniewski, the director of business operations for the Ravenna School District. “Water was just literally flowing in our brand new facility.”

This was the first of two major water line breaks that caused significant water damage to the new high school since it opened in August. The second incident, which occurred on Jan. 13, involved a water leak in an administrative office restroom forcing carpet to be removed along with sections of a wall in the office.

Wisniewski said the flooding happened because plumbing lines were not connected as well as expected allowing water to flow through. When Wisniewski asked a representative from D&A Plumbing, the plumbing contractor for the building, about the number of similar fittings throughout the building, the representative said there were hundreds of similar fittings in the building.

“He said ‘that’s all we use in every construction job’ so my comfort zone is very uncomfortable right now,” Wisniewski said. “I’ve brought in architects and the insurance company [Ohio Casualty] has brought in engineers and it’s the whole process now of reviewing and evaluating what their installation was.”

The school also dealt with a minor incident in August when faculty noticed a wet ceiling panel. The leaking problem was resolved as plumbers were still working inside the building.

D&A Plumbing declined a request for an interview when contacted. The plumbing contractor performed pressure testing on Jan. 17, but Wisniewski said he currently does not have the results from the tests.

Wisniewski said the plumbing contractor has been responsive and cooperative while working toward resolving the problems. The warranty period on the project is one year and a day because of government rules on a public entity bid but Wisniewski has been told the school will get a new gym floor.

Fred Fries, business manager for the Southeast Local School District, can relate to the frustration Wisniewski is experiencing. Fries has worked as a business manager for five school districts over a period of 30 years and says anytime a new building is built there are challenges the owner has to deal with.

Since Fries was hired by the Southeast School District in 2007, he has worked with the Ohio School Facilities Commission to fix heating and cooling issues at the Southeast High School and Elementary School.

“All the Ravenna Schools want is just like me—we want to fix it and we want to fix it now because we can’t wait,” Fries said. “When you’re dealing with the state government, and multiple funds, and you have to allow contractors time to fix their work and give engineers time to analyze it, things don’t happen overnight—that’s very frustrating.”

While the damage at Ravenna High School has not affected students and faculty significantly, the school district is now determining the costs of the damages. The damages include the costs of a new floor manufactured in Germany, new bleachers that have to be removed, the drying equipment used and repairs to administrative office walls.

Robert Steines is a partner with the architect firm Balog, Steines, Hendricks, & Manchester Architects, Inc. As the project architect, Steines has been involved with the building process since the design stages and has spoken with school officials during these incidents.

“We’re in contact with them as much as they would like,” Steines said. “However, the insurance carriers of the contractors and the school district need to resolve this. The construction manager’s office as well as our office are there to assist in any way that we can and we did so by identifying the problem.”

Moving forward, Wisniewski wants the respective attorneys, insurance companies and plumbing company to meet with URS Construction, the construction management team provided by the state of Ohio, to work on a plan for the future of the building.

“The state of Ohio is a stakeholder in this project,” Wisniewski said. “Fifty-three percent of that building is Ohio taxpayer’s money. What my goal is to bring all these interested partners to the table and to have ongoing dialogue, discussion and a plan for the future of this building in relation to this plumbing issue alone.”