The Harford County school system signed a contract with H.A. Harris Co. of Baltimore Friday to take over construction of Church Creek Elementary School in Belcamp.
Harris will begin work at the site at Riverside Parkway and Church Creek Road tomorrow, said Donald R. Morrison, spokesman for the school system.
Harris, which built Ring Factory Elementary in Bel Air and is in the process of building Country Walk also in Bel Air, replaces Peter J. Scarpulla Inc. of Baltimore.
Scarpulla, citing "financial difficulties," stopped work on the school Sept. 10, when its bonding company, St. Paul Seaboard Co. of New Jersey, took over the project.
The contract signed Friday by school superintendent Ray R. Keech, Harris and Seaboard, calls for construction of Church Creek to be completed by Aug. 1, 1994, Mr. Morrison said.
The school, which will have a capacity of 600 students, is 35 percent complete. The steel skeleton of the building is in place and some exterior brickwork has been completed.
The school system could not explain why the final contract, which has been in the works for several weeks, was so long in coming. "It's just been a negotiating process between H.A. Harris and the bonding company," Mr. Morrison said.
School construction in Harford has been at the center of controversy since August when the new Fallston Middle School's opening was delayed two weeks because it failed to pass a critical fire safety inspection.
In that case, the contractor, Hanover-based Triangle General Contractors Inc., has denied responsibility. Triangle is still working on a wing at Fallston that will house industrial arts, the gymnasium and choral and instrumental music.
Work on Church Creek Elementary began in September 1992. It was supposed to have been completed Aug. 15, 1993, but in April of this year school officials announced it would not open until the start of school in 1994. At the time, construction problems with compacted soil were blamed.
Seaboard rebid the Church Creek job in August, and H.A. Harris emerged the low bidder.
But Scarpulla continued to work on the site until Sept. 10, when Seaboard closed it to take inventory of supplies and building materials, Mr. Morrison said.
Seaboard faces the possibility of a $1,500-per-day penalty for the construction delay.
How much of a fine is imposed will probably be decided through negotiations with the school system or in court, Mr. Morrison said.