Last month, construction at Century High School in Eldersburg was under budget and on schedule, according to Carroll County school officials.
Now, construction supervisor Raymond Prokop says the project has been delayed 75 days by an especially rainy summer and the unavailability of tradesmen who are tied up with tardy jobs in neighboring counties.
He told the Carroll Board of Education last week that the delays will likely necessitate the hiring of an additional assistant to help the construction management firm hired to oversee the project.
The assistant superintendent would be hired under a seven-month contract for $48,000.
Asked why school officials told a Sun reporter less than a month ago that the project was on track, Prokop said school staff had not tabulated the effect of rain and labor shortages on the project schedule.
"At the time, we were looking at what the weather had done, and that was the information we had," he said. "It's not as if each day it rains, we get a report up here and I move my little tacks along on the schedule up here.
"We knew the rain was doing some things, but you don't just go and restructure a 3,000-item schedule. It doesn't get reworked constantly," he said. "But eventually, you realize we're not maintaining the schedule as we had planned and we have to rework some things."
Prokop expects the new help will get the project back on schedule for Century to open next fall.
The $30 million project remains under budget.
Century will be Carroll's sixth high school and its first new one since Liberty High opened in 1980. During the two decades since, South Carroll's population has more than doubled to nearly 30,000 and portable classrooms have sprung up around Liberty, which was built for 1,200 students and now has nearly 1,700 on its rolls.
Prokop emphasized that the delays have not meant that work at the Klees Mill and Ronsdale roads site completely stopped for 75 days. Outdoor work on the 37-acre tract halted with each rain storm, he said.
But construction inside the enclosed portion of the building continued with varying degrees of delay.
The classroom side of the two-story, 207,000-square-foot building is under roof, as are the administrative offices, cafeteria and gymnasium.
The remaining areas, including the auditorium, are scheduled to be enclosed by next month.
Prokop said an additional impediment to the school's schedule has been a shortage of laborers in various trades.
With school construction and renovation projects behind schedule in several Maryland counties, carpenters, electricians, bricklayers and the like have been kept longer than expected, delaying their arrival on other jobs, including Century.
"That's the tough thing in this market - if the labor's not there, it's not just a matter of paying people more to get out here," Prokop said.
With competing jobs winding down, Prokop expects a flood of tradesmen to arrive.
The additional assistant will help coordinate the work of laborers in different parts of the building and across the sprawling site.
"That additional person will work in field with the superintendent, continuously monitoring, coordinating and pushing the job and looking ahead," he said. "Not just whatever you're nailing together today but looking ahead to next day, next week and next month."