The discovery of some less-than-stellar construction techniques in the historic portion of Bellview Elementary School last week could push costs on the construction project much higher than anticipated.

The discovery of some less-than-stellar construction techniques in the historic portion of Bellview Elementary School last week could push costs on the construction project much higher than anticipated.

In one case, engineers found a wooden column supporting a second-story concrete floor that had been cut half away in order to make room for a plumbing retrofit, for example, Gary DeCock, a project manager with Heery International, told Capital Project Advisory Committee members at a meeting Monday night.

In the library, a wall had been removed and the roof was being supported by rotting columns in the windows, he said.

"One thing keeps adding on to the next and the next, and collectively it becomes a major issue," he said. "It affects the stability of the building when you start taking out things."

School district officials are still unsure how much the problems will cost to fix, said Superintendent Juli Di Chiro, but the condition of the building is worse than anticipated.

"We thought we'd run into surprises," she said. We didn't think we'd run into structural issues."

The $13 million Bellview project was already $206,000 over budget before the discoveries were made, although the overall district construction budget projects a $2 million surplus by the end of construction.

The district is so far not considering tearing down the building, which was kept to satisfy Historic Commission requirements. Completely starting over would still be more expensive than more in-depth renovations, DeCock said, because they would have to meet all current building codes.

"If we refurbish it, then we just have to make it better," he said.

Plans show the front part of the building housing the art and science rooms and a space for staff meetings when construction is completed next fall.

Because they are refurbishing the historic section, the district could keep the school facing Tolman Creek Road rather than repositioning it to face Siskiyou Boulevard, DeCock said.

The discoveries should not impact the rest of the construction schedule because there is so much other work to be done, he said. The project is slated for completion just before school starts in the fall of 2009.

Staff writer Julie French can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or jfrench@dailytidings.com.