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Parking garage fails to open on time again

By Dylan Chesser
On February 2, 2014

The construction of the parking garage at East Tennessee State University has been delayed again due to inclement weather and the construction company's inability to procure necessary materials.
Though the university originally hoped the parking garage would be completed by the beginning of the fall 2013 academic semester, the construction company was not contractually obligated to have the parking garage complete until November.
"Back when it started [parking garage construction], we said we hoped, of course, it would be open fall semester," said David Collins, vice president for finance and administration at ETSU. "They [Rentenbach] thought they might could meet it. Well, of course, that's always in best case circumstances. Officially, by contract, it was always mid-November."
After Rentenbach Construction failed to complete the parking garage by mid-November, the university announced that it believed the parking garage would be completed by the beginning of the spring semester. However, when students arrived in the spring, the university announced that the parking garage would not be complete until early- or mid-February.
"We have not had average weather this last year," Collins said. "[It was] either the wettest year on record or second, depending on who you listen to at various times.  A lot of the work was able to continue when they were bringing in the prefab [prefabrication materials] and things like that, but as we got down to the outside work, that's when [the delays] started."
When the parking garage is complete, the Tennessee Board of Regents will evaluate the performance of Rentenbach Construction and may assess liquidated damages for delayed construction.
"Any contract has what's called liquidated damages," Collins said. "If they're not finished by the contract date, in this case, the liquidated damages is $2,500 a day."
If TBR decides to assess liquidated damages, the board will withhold $2,500 for every calendar day - not including days the construction company could not work due to inclement weather - the company failed to complete the parking garage.
"When you pay the contractor, typically, ... it's around 10 percent retainage until everything's done," Collins said. "So, it wouldn't be a matter of [the construction company] paying us, it would be a matter of us docking what's owed."
Collins said that the university would not be opposed to working with Rentenbach Construction in the future.
"We've had good luck with Rentenbach," Collins said. "Rentenbach built Centennial Hall. It really worked out well. They've done a lot of good things on this project. They got the parking lot done behind Warf-Pickel, worked closely with us. So, a lot of the things have been beyond their control."
Collins said that the university has had a few concerns about the way Retenbach Construction has utilized its time.
"There were some slow-downs and some good days that I don't think were good," Collins said. "Having said that, we have no control. Projects typically are bid. Of course, we have our say and, of course, the board works with it."
Collins said that although ETSU has had concerns about the company's time management, the university realizes that the inclement weather has impeded Rentenbach in several tasks.
"We certainly haven't been happy with the delays, some of it probably beyond their control, some of it may not have been," Collins said.
"The other side of it is it's looking good, and it's going to be a good project."

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