MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — In a 2-1 vote, Township Committee agreed to pay close to $10,000 for work on the new roof for Township Hall, a project plagued by delays and leaks.
Committeeman Michael Clark voted no. He had asked representatives of engineering firm Remington and Vernick to attend Monday’s meeting to explain the additional charges.
Clark complained the township accepted the low bid for the work, but then change orders drove up the cost.
“Change orders cost money. I have to, as a public official, be cognizant of change orders and what it’s going to cost. It just seems like we get change orders quite often for you guys,” Clark said. “I understand that this project has been a difficult project and there have been problems with all aspects of this project. I think there’s blame to go around for everybody.”
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James M. Oris, regional manager for the firm, admitted there had been numerous problems with the project. His firm had a $25,000 contract to design and oversee the project, but it was shelved about three years ago, he said.
Later, he said, the township asked to rebid the contract as an emergency. He said a letter went to the township at that point asking for an additional $2,500 to cover the cost of that additional work.
Based on the low bid, he said, Remington and Vernick recommended a contractor with what he described as a “certain reputation.”
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“There had been good and bad experiences with this contractor, however nothing that we would recommend it not be awarded,” he said. “During the course of construction, the contractor ran into several unforeseen conditions.” Oris raised concerns about how those issues were handled. He said the work at one point put the township at peril.
In his comments to Township Committee, Oris did not name the contractor who performed the repairs. Township Business Administrator Kimberly Krauss did not respond to a call requesting more details on the contract.
According to Oris, the situation was bad enough to require constant oversight.
“It was decided we needed to station an inspector on site full time. To protect the township’s interests, for the project itself but also to protect the safety of the town,” he said.
That meant additional costs. He said the original $25,000 included $16,000 for the design of the project and another $9,000 for construction services.
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“Essentially we had to almost double our efforts in the field,” Oris said. He added later that the firm undertook the work even though there was a chance the township would decide not to pay for it. He added the project came in under budget, suggesting the township would not end up spending more than expected.
At the meeting, Krauss said she needed to confirm with the finance department that the township did not pay the additional money to rebid the project and $7,400 for additional inspection services.
“It’s been a total cluster from the beginning,” Clark said. The lone Democrat on committee, Clark is running for reelection this year. Mayor Tim Donohue and Committeeman Theron “Ike” Gandy voted to pay the additional money.
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“I’m not here to defend you guys,” said Donohue, but the firm ran a difficult project and doing so ran up additional expenses.
“If I have a beef with anybody, it’s with the contractor,” Donohue said. “These guys were hired to protect our interests. That’s what they did.”
“Had we had a better contractor, we wouldn’t be here this evening. I can say that without hesitation,” Oris said.
“We encumbered extra costs. Nobody’s happy about it. So, lesson learned,” Donohue said.