MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — In a divided vote, Township Committee agreed to pay close to $10,000 to the engineering firm Remington and Vernick for work on the new roof for Township Hall at 33 Mechanic St.
Committeeman Michael Clark voted no in the two-to-one vote along party lines. He had asked representatives of the company to attend the Monday, July 1, meeting to explain the additional charges.
Clark complained that the township accepts the low bid for work, but then change orders drive 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 on this project.”
According to James M. Oris, regional manager for the firm, there had been numerous problems with the project, along with delays. His firm had a $25,000 contract to design and oversee the project. But the project was shelved about three years ago, he said.
Later, he said, the township asked to seek bids again on 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.”
“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 detail 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 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.
“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 that 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 for seeking new bids on the project and $7,400 for additional inspection services.
It seemed clear there were numerous problems with the project, including leaks in the roof of Township Hall.
“It’s been a total cluster from the beginning,” was how Clark put it. 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.
“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.