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Caribou school construction site buzzes with activity

CARIBOU, Maine — Over 50 individuals are simultaneously working on a brand new, PreK-8 school in Caribou, which contractors plan to complete in August of next year.

Staff photos/Chris Bouchard

The $53 million project is primarily funded by the state of Maine Department of Education and RSU 39 (a school unit consisting of Caribou, Limestone, and Stockholm). Representatives at the site are in constant communication with the engineering team, PDT Architects of Portland, as well as Bowman Constructors of Newport, the lead contractor.

To ensure that the project is built up to engineers’ specifications, Clerk of the Works Gregg Bouchard of PDT Architects works on site every day and maintains communication between the engineers, lead contractor, and the project “owners”: RSU 39 Superintendent Tim Doak, Assistant Superintendent Jane McCall, Business Manager Mark Bouchard, and Facilities Director Wayne St. Pierre.

Every day, Bouchard completes a 15- to 18-page report of everything taking place on the site and relays that information to ensure transparency during the project.

On June 4, Bouchard said there were 53 people on site: one project manager, eight foremen, and 44 staff members.

“My role is to be the eyes and ears for the architect here on the site,” Bouchard said, “to report on the progress of work, to do testing and inspections. I take a series of photos with each of the daily reports, and also keep an open issues log so if anything is not going per the documents I can reach out to PDT. Sometimes we may have to write a request for information from Bowman about why certain things are being done in a particular way.”

He said that every aspect needs to be built precisely the specifications delineated by PDT Architects.

“You pretty much don’t build it unless you have the signed and sealed approval from the engineers,” Bouchard said. “You can’t alter their design.”

RSU 39 Business Manager Mark Bouchard said there are “millions of details” in the project, and that Gregg Bouchard’s job is to clear up any possible misconceptions or misinterpretation that may occur between the numerous parties involved.

Gregg Bouchard, while he now works for the Portland-based PDT, is a Caribou native, and has 23 years of experience working on educational facilities.

“I used to work for general contractors until I was 32,” he said. “I used to put these buildings up, but on a smaller scale.”

This $53 million project, he said, is much larger than the average project and “unique to probably everyone on the project,” as many are between $10 and $15 million.

Both Gregg and Mark Bouchard said that while the work can be overwhelming, it’s never dull.

“You find yourself thinking about it,” Gregg said, “at night and on the weekends. It’s in your mind; it doesn’t escape you. You really can’t take a vacation or lose a day on the site.”

Mark Bouchard said that while there’s “a lot to it, it’s all fun,” and that the owners are still involved in numerous aspects of the project.

“It’s a lot of work,” said Mark, “but there’s just so much positive energy and it’s so rewarding.”

Contractors involved with the massive project include Powers Roofing and Sheet Metal, County Abatement, Underwood Electric, N.S. Giles, Soderberg Construction. Patrick St. Peter and Sons Plumbing, Maine Masonry, Arc Erecting, and Wagner Drywall, all of which are working under Bowman Constructors.

Looking ahead, the next major milestone will be when the concrete and iron come together, at which point everything else can be bolted on to the frame.

The next significant milestone will be the beginning of next winter, at which point the exterior shell of the building will need to be finished so the building can hold heat, allowing contractors to work in the new school and not lose any time once the snow begins to fall.

The school is scheduled for completion in August of 2020.

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