B&C picked to build new Harrison school

HARRISON –

A contractor that ended up in arbitration with the Kearny Board of Education on a complex Kearny High School renovation job is being awarded a $25+ million contract to build a new Harrison school.

The official announcement confirming that the Towaco firm of Brockwell & Carrington is the choice of the state Schools Development Authority was expected to be made this past Monday, Dec. 19.

Plans call for a “design/build” of a three-story, 65,500-square foot structure to rise just across the street from Washington Middle School along Harrison Ave., on the site of a former municipal parking lot off S. Fifth and Washington Sts.

That building is to accommodate some 400 children, with two classrooms for pre-K, nine classrooms for kindergarten and nine for first-graders, a cafeteria, a “multi-purpose” space, plus indoor and outdoor play areas.

James Doran, personnel director for the Harrison Board of Education, told The Observer that the local district was apprised of the contract award by the SDA on Nov. 22.

Doran said that B&C was one of seven construction/development groups that applied for the job.

After having submitted detailed written proposals, representatives of each team were each allotted two hours to make their pitch to a committee comprised of seven SDA members and one local district member – Doran – over a two-day period, Oct. 17-18, in Trenton.

Each team’s presentation was given a numerical “score” based on a formula that gave 40% weight to satisfying a list of benchmarks set by the SDA and 60% to the actual bid price.

Participating with B&C on the project will be FVHD (Fraytak, Veisz, Hopkins & Duthie) architects/planners of Ewing Township and Mont Clare, Pa.; Gillan & Hartmann, project & facility design/management specialist of Mont Clare, Pa.; and Harrison-Hamnett, consulting structural engineers of Pennington.

Doran said the contract award to B&C was for $25,889,000 – not including costs anticipated for remediation of the development site, acquisition of nearby residential properties on S. Fifth St. and demolition of those homes. Figuring in those additional expenses, SDA’s total investment in the Harrison project is projected at $34.6 million of which the SDA will reportedly fund 100%.

Doran said that he was familiar with B&C’s Kearny experience but he said he’s “being cautiously optimistic” about the project in Harrison which is expected to be finished by spring 2019.

B&C, in partnership with FVHD, has been awarded another SDA job: construction of a 53,000-square foot elementary school for 275 students in grades K to 5, with 13 classrooms, other educational space and a gym in Garfield for $17 million, due for completion by February 2018.

It was also hired by Hudson County Community College to develop a 75,000-square foot, six-story STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math) building on Academy St. in Jersey City for $20 million by May 2017.

Earlier this year, B&C completed a 30,000-square foot addition to the Passaic County Community College Wanaque Academic Center for $8.5 million and a 60,000-square foot dining room/bookstore/student life building for Ocean County College for $17 million.

And in October 2016, the Edison Board of Education voted to hire B&C to build an addition to the Woodbrook Elementary School for about $11.5 million.

In Kearny, B&C was the original general contractor hired by the Board of Education to tackle a two-pronged job to undertake exterior renovations to the high school’s South Building and install soundproof windows as part of a federal aircraft noise abatement project. Ultimately, the high school was to get new classrooms, cafetorium and central atrium and the $37 million in project funding was to come from the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Federal Aviation Administration and state Department of Education.

But not long after the work begin, the contractor and BOE tangled on virtually every aspect of the project and, ultimately, B&C departed under a “termination for convenience” arrangement. The company pocketed about $10 million for its work and netted an additional $2.5 million from two arbitration cases. The BOE has since hired another contractor to complete the job.

In Harrison, meanwhile, Doran said the new school was pitched as a way to relieve growing enrollment in the local district, particularly in pre-K to grade 5, resulting in overcrowded classes.

As part of a realignment after the new school is occupied, plans call for Lincoln and Hamilton schools to handle grades 2 to 5, add a cafeteria at both schools, add a computer lab and music room at Lincoln, add an instrumental music room at Hamilton and open additional classroom space as needed, according to Doran.

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.