'Blue muck' holding up parking lot project at Robinson Middle School

Rick Wagner • Jun 22, 2013 at 7:31 PM

KINGSPORT — Robinson Middle School’s parking lot project is a quagmire of “blue muck” these days.

A contractor excavating the lot, behind the Kingsport Community Church, has found the muck of the Model City, a troublesome soil that may add $75,000 and untold extra time to a $170,000 parking lot renovation and paving project.

The estimated change order cost — originally about $110,000 — is to take out the dirt, replace it with rock and gravel and then pave over it. The original concrete was more or less poured directly over the dirt, said David Frye, finance director for Kingsport City Schools.

“They ran into what our engineering department calls blue muck. It’s really bad,” Frye said. “I don’t know if we have any option at this point other than to proceed.”

Board of Education members discussed relocating part of the parking lot and turning the worst areas into grassed ones, but they said taking away from ball fields would be the only option and that those fields may have the muck underneath the surface, too.

Recent rains haven’t helped matters, Frye said. Elaine Minton, administrative coordinator for students services, said the lot represents about 75 parking spaces.

The two-thirds of the lot on the church side needs to have 18 inches of dirt removed, geo grid fabric put down and the dirt replaced mostly with surge, rock about one-and-a-half to two-inches in diameter, before being capped off with regular gravel and then paved with asphalt.

The other third, closer to the school, needs the same process except only six inches of excavation, Frye said.

He said Chapman Construction is at a standstill on the project until approval of extra funding comes from the Board of Education and Board of Mayor and Aldermen, neither of which is scheduled to meet again until July 9. He said concurrent approval might be the best option unless something can be done before then.

The 6 percent contingency, which is less than $10,000, wouldn’t make a dent in the change order funding, Frye said.

The muck issue would force food to be delivered through the front door of the school, and if the parking lot is not done by the beginning of school in August, it will require extensive use of street parking and the nearby Golden Dragon parking lot already used from time to time for school and school-related functions.

Superintendent Lyle Ailshie said officials will check to see if there’s an emergency process to use or if called meetings could be scheduled.

Frye said the soil has been an issue on various other projects throughout Kingsport, including Broad and Sullivan street renovations, and that the same soil is under the Kingsport Town Center, across Fort Henry Drive from Robinson’s location.

On brighter notes, Frye gave the BOE a rundown of other summer capital improvement projects that have no blue muck issues:

• Installation of new walk-in coolers and freezers is under way at Johnson and Lincoln elementary schools, including work that will result in more storage and three times the loading dock space at Lincoln.

• Construction of a new secured entrance and other improvements at Jackson Elementary are under way, with the lower concourse formed and some door and window frames installed.

• Tennis court surface repair is done or almost done. It includes two coats of surface sealer and new strips on top of that.

• Conversion of the American Legion Center to Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps space is under way, with some cutouts of new windows and doors done and masonry work inside begun and construction of new concrete walkways to start soon.

The contracted work is to be done by Aug. 31, to be followed by school system work not in the contract, Frye said. He said ROTC likely could move into the new space during fall break.

• New lighting installation for J. Fred Johnson stadium is mostly installed and most of the old light poles have been taken down. He said wiring and trench work continues but likely will be wrapped up before Fun Fest in mid-July.

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