RE-1: Drill baby, drill

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MEEKER I Meeker RE-1 superintendent Susie Goettel received direction from the school board to hire a new geotechnical company to further investigate the soils at the new elementary school. The CTL Thompson firm has proposed drilling at least three additional soil bores before structural repairs begin.
John Mechling, principal engineer for the new geotech firm, said he has been with the company since 1978 and has been on more than 1,500 jobs in that time. Mechling said he has reviewed some of the existing geotech documents but didn’t want to know too much about what has been completed.
“I’ve seen enough structures and wanted to look at it with fresh eyes,” Mechling told board members and more than 25 citizens at Tuesday’s school board meeting. “My first take was ‘it’s not that bad,’ but there are some things that are a little concerning.”
Mechling said the site was built on a slope by cutting into the uphill side and placing the fill dirt on the low side, creating the possibility that the fill would settle over time.
“The west side (of the elementary school) is built on 12 feet of fill,” Mechling said. “It’s important to evaluate what the potential additional settlement may be and as importantly, how long it will take to settle. That is the goal of the study we are proposing.”
Mechling said he plans to act “fairly quickly,” bringing in a remote controlled, track-mounted rig to drill three holes next week.
“Hopefully the findings of potential settlement is small and not a lot more settlement to come,” Mechling said.
Board member Jerry Oldland asked if three holes were enough and Mechling said he thought three would be OK, but if “we have to drill additional bores as part of the investigation, then we are going to do more, while we are there.”
Mechling plans to drill 10 feet into the bedrock, using special tubes to obtain soil samples. He said he hopes he won’t have to drill inside the building. The lab work will take two to three weeks.
Retired attorney and geologist Frank Cooley gave a brief presentation on the Mancos shale we have in our area and how settling problems are not uncommon.
Local contractor Jerry Belland questioned the original geotech reports, which recommended a deep foundation system, not on spread footings as was done.
The school district’s owner’s rep, Jim West, said he thought Belland did not have the addenda to the reports but “soils engineers signed off on what was built.”
Belland asked if the decision was made for economic reasons or because it was the best method to use.
“A mix of both,” West replied.
“We didn’t go the cheap route just to go cheap, I’ll tell you that,” school board president Mary Strang said.
Goettel said the district received two applications for the head coaching position for the high school girls’ basketball program and recommended hiring Greg Chintala. The board voted 4-3 to hire Chintala.