Work crews gathered and woke up the giant sleeping yellow diesel machines that obligingly thundered to life just past 7 a.m. Wednesday.

It was time to continue what they started so many months ago — the second Harrisonburg high school between South Main Street and Interstate 81.

On Tuesday, City Council approved change order No. 5 to resume the $112 million project paused by change order No. 4 in April 2020, just four months after it had begun.

Over those first four months of construction, three change orders had already been filed for the project, according to documents obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request.

Extra rock work detailed in the three change orders totaled an additional nearly $1.4 million on top of the original contract for construction of the school, according to the documents.

In January 2020, workers ran into rock costing an additional $143,700 as noted in the first change order dated Feb. 18, 2020. In February 2020, more rock was found and a second change order was drawn up for $295,700 and dated March 23, 2020.

Work during March and April 2020 yielded change order No. 3 for $947,600 for more rock removal but also a $580,000 deduction for U.S. 11 road improvement credit. The third change order is dated April 16, 2020.

In a spring interview with the Daily News-Record, Craig Mackail, Harrisonburg City Public Schools chief operating officer, said funding for the additional cost comes from a different source of money than the HHS2 budget. Mackail could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

"There are some things you can't predict, and one is rock quality and how much is in the ground," Mackail said at the time, pointing out that Harrisonburg is called "Rocktown" for a reason. "It's great if you don't have to use [the contingency money] but it's there for a reason."

Back in the spring, Mackail said, change orders for rock removal are common locally and built into a contingency budget for projects like HHS2. He added that every city school construction project that he has worked on since he started with HCPS in 2005 has needed change orders for rock removal.

There could be several more months of blasting at the site, said Jim DeLucas, chief development officer at the project's primary contractor, Nielsen Builders.

"It's a combination," he said. "You drill and then you blast. You drill and then you blast."

DeLucas said the explosions are controlled and certified with approval from fire marshals. He said workers bury the explosives so they do not cause projectiles.

HHS2 is slated for completion on Dec. 31, 2023, with certification of occupancy by Feb. 16, 2024.

— Megan Williams contributed to this report.

Contact Ian Munro at 574-6278 or Follow Ian on Twitter @iamIanMunro

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