Some concerns raised about Morrison School were eased Monday night during a county Education Committee meeting that included the contractor, engineer, architect and county commissioners.
“You don’t know how difficult this has been on me and my family,” said Tommy Stiles, of A.W. Stiles Contractor. “I go to sleep every night thinking about it and wake up every morning thinking about it. I screwed up. I did, but there are two sides to every story and no one knows my side.”
A.W. Stiles Contractor was the subcontractor of Biscan Construction, the overall project contractor for construction of Morrison School. Joists in the gym were placed upside down, but the problem was not discovered until the roof had been installed and the joists welded to the metal sheeting.
Stiles says some people are thinking that the school’s roof was placed on upside down, which is inaccurate.
“They are thinking of a regular roof,” he said. “If it had been that obvious, the mistake would not have been made. These joists give the same slant to the roof even if placed upside down. It’s not that obvious.”
The joists are pre-assembled braces that come to the job site on a truck. While some companies mark the joists to eliminate possible confusion, the company used for this project did not, says Stiles.
“They weren’t marked,” he said. “It is so hard to tell which way to place them that some companies mark the joists to eliminate confusion. They will place ‘up’ on the top. We placed them the way they came on the truck. They came on the truck upside down.”
When the problem was found by engineer Chris Myers, Stiles called the joist company.
“They knew exactly how to fix the problem by welding steel supports in place,” he said. “Apparently, this happens a lot. I was shocked. I suggested they start marking the joists so it doesn’t happen again. Paint them or something. I don’t know if they will, but I suggested it.”
School officials requested certified welders be used in adding the steel supports.
“All our welders are certified,” said Stiles. “It took two men and $800 to add the supports.”
During the monthly meeting of the full Warren County Commission in February, Commissioner Joel Akers voiced concerns about design capacity and safety for students.
“The roof will have the same design capacity that it would have had if the joists were placed on correctly the first time,” said Stiles.
Also during the monthly meeting, Director of Schools Dr. Jerry Hale told commissioners he was told by “engineers” the roof would be better reinforced than it would have been originally.
“We were told that capacity will be better than it would have been,” said Commissioner Terry Bell. “Is that true?”
“We don’t want to go on record saying that,” said Paul McCall, architect from Red Chair Architects.
Stiles added, “My children will be going to this school. I’m taking this very seriously. It’s personal for me. I live here. My children go to school there.”
School officials also requested engineer Chris Myers review and approve all the proposed modifications and calculations, as well as final inspection by him that all modifications have been done to his satisfaction.
The process has reached final inspection and approval.
“Upon final approval, the gym is ready for roofing,” said Stiles.
After listening to the explanation of how the mishap happened, reviewing the steps to correct it, and looking at diagrams of the joists, Commissioner Bell says his mind has been eased.
“I hate this has been such a problem for you,” Bell said to Stiles. “I think you are doing a fine job. Things happen. I just wanted to ease any concerns that commissioners had about this project.”
The vote of support was well received. Stiles says the last few weeks have been less than enjoyable.
“It’s really good to hear someone thinks I’m doing a good job,” he said. “This has been a truly humbling experience for me. I work all over, so I’m away from home a lot. I thought this project in my hometown would give me a chance to be home more. Then, this happened.”
The ironic humor was not lost on those at the meeting.
“That will teach you to work close to home,” Commissioner Ron Lee said, with a smile.
No exact time was given for Morrison School gym to be complete.