By Ron Leir
After little activity since March, the Kearny High School construction job should be resuming shortly, Superintendent of Schools Frank Ferraro said last week.
And work on the former tire factory building at 174 Midland Ave. the BOE acquired several years ago to house BOE headquarters and four classrooms should be starting up soon also, he said.
Last Monday, Sept. 16, the Kearny Board of Education awarded a contract to the Paul Otto Building Co. of Cranford for $2,968,000 to complete work on KHS’s South Building.
Ferraro said the goal is to finish that job by January 2014.
At that point, he said, students and teachers now in the trailer classroom units (TCUs) on the school’s front lawn can move back inside the high school and their “spots” will be taken by students and teachers from the North Building where, it’s expected, the next stage – building a 5-story atrium, new classrooms and cafeteria – will begin.
It’s fortunate that the BOE still has access to those TCUs, given that nobody has paid the rent due on them since April, according to Ferraro.
The former contractor on the KHS construction job – Brockwell & Carrington – had been responsible for those payments but the Towaco firm was “terminated for convenience” by the BOE on March 20 and, thereafter, the payments to the TCU supplier, Mod- Space of Woodbridge, lapsed, Ferraro said.
So, to remedy that, the BOE voted last Monday to pay ModSpace $31,500 – the outstanding balance owed through September – and, thereafter, Ferraro said, the BOE will draft a new agreement with the TCU supplier to continue those payments.
When the new contractor, Paul Otto, starts work, the firm will be installing hallway ceilings, re-doing floors and walls, and putting in fire sprinklers and fire suppression systems in the South Building, Ferraro said.
Work specifications all comply with current state school building codes, Ferraro said.
And those government agencies that are funding most of the project – the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and the Federal Aviation Administration – are being kept in the loop on the board’s actions, he added.
They were also informed, Ferraro said, that Paul Otto wasn’t the low bidder on the South Building job but the BOE was advised by its construction attorney to go with the firm, as the second lowest bidder, because the bid submitted by the low bidder was deficient.
Even so, the price the firm submitted “was over the [BOE’s professionals’] preliminary estimate by several hundred thousands of dollars,” Ferraro said.
For that reason, he said, “we may bid out the next phase of the job with alternates, just to give us some flexibility.”
Asked to predict whether the entire job – including an ongoing negotiated settlement of money owed Brockwell & Carrington – can be finished with the remaining federal and state funding available, Ferraro said that’s still being reviewed by D’Archangelo & Co., a New York auditing firm hired in July. “They will project our overall remaining construction cost,” he said.
During the summer, Ferraro said, about $19,000 was invested in insulation services at the South Building, “in the space between the soffits and the walls to help with the retention of heating and cooling and this was part of the original plan for the building.”
Although the exterior façade work on the high school building has been completed, Ferraro said that Epic, the construction management firm on the KHS project, recommended that the BOE “double-check” to see whether the older limestone is properly secured to the building,” at a cost of $30,400.
As for the Midland Ave. building, Ferraro said the BOE has secured permits to begin renovations to accommodate its central office and registration (now housed at the Franklin School site), along with the office for special services (which now occupies rented space on Kearny Ave.) Plans call for transitioning to the new space “after the completion of work at the South Building,” he said.
At that point, however, Ferraro said that he and Assistant Superintendent Debra Sheard and Operations Director Mark Bruscino would temporarily relocate to space at the high school “because I want to see first-hand what’s going on with the construction so I can report back to the community on the work.”
“Also,” Ferraro said, “I couldn’t in good conscience move to a brandnew space and leave our students and staff in a building still not yet up to par.”
In other developments at last Monday’s meeting, the BOE:
• Voted 5-4 to accept the superintendent’s recommendation to hire Frontline Technologies of Exton, Pa., to install a web-based software package to help schedule substitute teachers and to record teacher attendance at a cost of $24,800 a year. No staff will be replaced as a result of this move, Ferraro said. “Teachers will call an 800 phone number when they’re going to be out,” he said. “Then the new program will contact a sub. An office employee will monitor the program. The other part of this program is that teachers [when reporting for work] will sign in on a computer in their classroom. No bio-metrics will be associated with this procedure.”
• Tabled for further review a proposal by KHS Principal Al Gilson for a Saturday student detention program designed to eliminate the loss of instructional time and to give offending seniors, in particular, a chance to make up lost credits without going to summer session. One option being explored, he said, is assigning students detention during Adult School at night.
• Deadlocked 4-4, with Dan Esteves abstaining, on a proposal to pay KHS Vice Principals Michael Barbone and Patrick Ragnoni a total of about $42,000 they’d sought for performing the duties of principal from July 1 to Nov. 30, 2012. Barbone and Ragnoni had filed an unfair labor practice complaint over the issue and an arbitrator had remanded it back to the BOE for consideration. “The matter is now closed,” said BOE Counsel Kenneth Lindenfelser.
• Accepted notice of pending retirements from three veteran KHS faculty: English teachers Patricia John, leaving Dec. 1 after 40 years, and Kathleen Fiore, departing Jan. 1, 2014, after 35 years; and Life Skills teacher Joyce Testa, leaving June 30, 2014, after 37 years. Ferraro said that replacements would be sought.