In 1990 the town of Needham commissioned a feasibility study that set forth three alternate schemes for expanding the Pollard Middle School. The Needham School Committee selected and scaled back a design calling for the construction of a two-story classroom addition and renovations to the existing building. The estimated cost of the project – including design and construction services, building furnishings, clerk of the works expenses, and a five percent contingency – was approximately $6 million. As of early 1995, the town had spent more than $7.3 million on the project, and additional expenditures for remedial work on the building were anticipated.

In August 1994, the Office of the Inspector General ("the Office") received several complaints alleging that mismanagement of the Pollard School project had contributed to cost overruns and schedule delays. In the ensuing months, Office staff reviewed hundreds of project documents and interviewed numerous project participants.

In conducting this review, the Office focused on the project management deficiencies underlying the problems the town encountered over the course of the project. The purpose of the Office's review was not to assess the quality of the design, nor to evaluate the construction contractor's performance, nor to conduct a detailed financial audit of the project, nor to assign blame to specific individuals. Rather, the Office's intent was to examine how some problems might have been prevented and how future municipal construction and renovation efforts can be better managed and controlled.

The first section of this report discusses the management deficiencies contributing to excess costs and schedule delays on the Pollard School project. The Office's findings concern four key areas of project management: planning, fiscal control, schedule control, and contractor oversight. The second section of the report provides a detailed history of two large construction contract change orders on the project.

The Office's findings, summarized below, highlight the need for effective project management safeguards on public projects at all stages of design and construction.