By Ron Leir
The slow-moving project to soundproof and remodel Kearny High School has been dealt another setback.
The lone bid received by the Board of Education on April 11 to complete the North Building Aircraft Noise Abatement and Renovation Project came in “over the budget estimate,” according to a BOE resolution rejecting the $48,747,000 offer submitted by Prismatic Development Corp. of Fairfield on April 22.
Mark Bruscino, the board’s operations director, said that five companies had picked up bid specification sheets in response to the March 7 bid solicitation notice but only one followed through. Bruscino declined to say by how much Prismatic’s bid exceeded estimates for the work but he suggested that one reason the contractor’s price ended up on the high side is because the company – and probably others – likely didn’t inspect construction materials still being held by sub-contractors from the time when the BOE ended its contract with the original general contractor (Brockwell & Carrington) whom the BOE “terminated for convenience” in early 2013.
To remedy that issue, the BOE voted at its April 22 meeting to “pay those subcontractors and suppliers … and credit such payment against the Noise Abatement contract.” To that end, the BOE will pay monthly storage fees of $54,645 to B&B Iron Works of Irvington (for steel it’s holding); $2,657 to Architectural Window of Rutherford; $6,440 to Amco Enterprises (HVAC equipment) of Kenilworth and $5,250 to ModSpace (outdoor classroom trailers).
As for the steel, however, Bruscino said he’s recommended that the BOE arrange to relocate the beams to the playground at Washington Elementary School. “That’s the biggest storage area we have available to use,” he added. Once that’s done, the storage payment will be moot, he said.
Bruscino estimated that the BOE has so far spent “between $16 million and $17 million” on the Noise Abatement Project which, along with the KHS Exterior Renovation Project, is being funded by a combination of funding from the Federal Aviation Administration, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and state Department of Education.
The BOE is still faced with settling an arbitration brought about a year ago by Brockwell & Carrington on the Exterior Renovation Project. B&C, which had a $4.899 million contract, says it’s owed a balance of $2.4 million — $1,596,654 “for the increased quantities of work performed” plus “approximately $800,000” for “damages and increased costs” which B&C says resulted from “delays and interferences caused by the Board [of Education] and its agents” that, in turn, caused the project to run 266 additional days, to Oct. 9, 2012, beyond the 700 days specified by its contract.
Asked what the prognosis was for continuing work on the North Building – particularly if the job is delayed past the summer months when students and staff are away — Bruscino said that the BOE’s engineering consultants are looking at revising the specifications to provide for “different options” for bringing steel onto the high school site “so we can proceed with that operation, even when the school is occupied.”
Instead of using a crane to hoist steel beams over the high school roof into place, there could be a way of hauling in trucking in sections of steel and assembling them from the ground up, Bruscino said.
Doing the steel work that way should serve to “bring the bid price down,” he added. In any event, once a new round of bids is advertised for, received and a contract awarded, “from the notice to proceed [with work], we’re talking two to two and a half years to complete the job,” Bruscino said.
In other infrastructure-related developments, the BOE authorized its architectural consultants DiCara-Rubino of Wayne to undertake design plans and bid specifications for “partial roof replacement” of the two high school athletic field houses, for $12,000, and to do similar work for “installation of field lighting at Mitchell Field” at Franklin School. Having lights at this multi-purpose field, shared by the BOE and the Kearny Recreation program, would be a big help for scheduling games normally played at the municipal Gunnell Oval complex which the town plans to make over with artificial turf to remedy the presence of sub-soil contamination.
And the BOE agreed to pay Hertz Furniture Systems of Mahway $60,038 for furniture for its new central office space at 774 Midland Ave. where staff in the offices of superintendent, special services, business, curriculum and facilities will be working once work on the former commercial building is completed. Two classrooms are slated to go in the basement level.
In educational matters, the BOE approved a 5-year lease/purchase of 625 new computers for $520,257 for the state-mandated PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) exams. The units are being acquired under state contract with annual payments of $104,051.
Neil Brohm, the district’s IT director, said he anticipates delivery of the terminals “very soon. We’ll probably spend much of the summer installing them.” Five 1-hour-long testing sessions will be scheduled during March and an additional four in May 2015 in staggered times for grades 3 to 11, he said. The computers will be available for classroom instructional use for the rest of the school year, he added.
Kearny offered to field test the PARCC this year but wasn’t included among the districts chosen by the state for that purpose, Brohm said. A number of districts that did field testing had difficulty connecting to the state PARCC web site, he said. “When the entire state tries to log on next school year, I’m expecting [a delay] will happen,” he added.
Brohm said the state has advised Kearny that “parents can’t keep their children home” as an opt-out strategy during testing. The Kearny district has formed a PARCC Planning Team with representatives from each school to identify classrooms that will be equipped with the computers and to ensure that students are familiar with their use. “We should be in better shape than most districts,” he said.
The BOE also accepted a $5,000 donation from Pioneer Boys of America to help defray the cost of the annual trip to Great Adventure by the district’s Boys & Girls Safety Patrol. This year, 126 students will travel to the amusement park in Jackson on May 23. The Kearny Police Department, which had financed the trip for years, said it could no longer afford to do so.
And the board voted to renew the contract for KHS Principal Al Gilson for another year. Gilson, who was hired Dec. 1, 2012, is slated to gain tenure as a school administrator Dec. 2, 1016.