Is KHS project ready now for final go-round?


The Kearny Board of Education has received a new round of bids to complete the long-delayed high school remodeling project and could award a contract by next month. Michael DeVita, board secretary/business administrator, said last week that the board’s consulting engineers and construction attorney were reviewing the prices submitted by five contractors on Dec. 15.

Base bids ranged from a low of nearly $27 million to a high of more than $34 million – a dramatic improvement from the last time the board solicited bids in April 2014, when it got a single offer of $48.7 million from a Fairfield firm which took another shot in this second round.

A bid spread sheet on the project, the Aircraft Noise Abatement & Addition/Renovation at Kearny HS North Building, listed this breakout on base bids:

• Delric Construction, of North Haledon, $36,499,000.

• Dobco, Inc., of Wayne, $31,000,000.

• Niram, Inc., of Boonton, $28,687,000. • Paul Otto Building Co., of Cranford, $27,678,000.

• Prismatic Development, of Fairfield, $29,775,000.

• The Bennett Company, of Passaic, $26,800,000.

The job involves completion of work on the high school’s North Building, including HVAC systems and an addition to encompass a central atrium and wings housing 20 new classrooms and a new cafeteria adaptable for a culinary arts program.

Dobco was initially awarded the high school job in 2010 but was challenged by the second-lowest bidder, Brockwell & Carrington, of Totowa.

B&C claimed that Dobco underbid the HVAC portion of the contract and that its proposed HVAC sub-contractor had exceeded its allowable limit on backlogged, uncompleted work and that, therefore, Dobco’s bid should be disqualified.

The dispute ended up in the courts, thereby delaying the start of the project, and wasn’t resolved until June 2011 when the Superior Court ordered the board to throw out Dobco’s bid and award B&C the job.

Unfortunately, the board and B&C parted ways in early 2013 and the board hired Paul Otto Building Co. to finish window installation, completion of work on the South Building and some demolition.

Prismatic was the lone contractor to bid on the project’s completion in 2014 but its bid of $48.7 million was rejected and the board directed its architects to scale down the project – like the size of the atrium – in hopes of cutting costs.

The Bennett Company is also familiar to local school trustees.

During the 2008-2009 school year, the firm did a renovation/addition of Lincoln School and finished within its allotted budget, according to Mark Bruscino, the district’s operations director.

For the current high school project, bidders were also asked to submit prices on several “alternate” or additional work items that may or may not be included in the overall scope of work, depending on how much the board can afford to spend within the limits of its remaining funding from the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, the Federal Aviation Administration and the state Department of Education.

The most expensive of these alternates figures to be removal of the temporary classroom trailers parked on the high school’s front lawn on Devon St. and restoration of the area. Others include: abating boiler room and pipe tunnels, abating mechanical rooms, removal and disposal of mechanical equipment and installing lab casework. Part of the bid review process, DeVita said, is sorting out which parts of the job can be financed from which “pot” of money. The P.A. and FAA pledged $25 million – about 80% of the overall cost – to cover the noise abatement part of the project (windows and HVAC), while the DOE’s School Development Authority committed $17 million – about 20% — for much of the other work, he said.

“As of September 2015, we had spent a total of $24 million on the project,” DeVita said.

How much money remains in each of the two funding “pots” couldn’t be readily learned.

Asked what happens if the board concludes it doesn’t have enough cash left to finish the job, board counsel Kenneth Lindenfelser said that if the board can justify the expense to the P.A. and FAA, “it’s my understanding that they’d consider giving us more money.”

But there’s another variable the board must consider: the outcome of two legal wrangles with B&C that will likely account for additional costs related to the project.

One is a “claim for lost profits” brought by the contractor resulting from the firm’s “termination for convenience.” This deals largely with work related to the noise abatement part of the job. The other is an arbitration case dealing with the exterior renovation and what Lindenfelser characterized as the “scope and quality” of work on the high school façade, covering windows, lintels and parapets.

If a determination is made that some or all of the exterior renovation work has to be done over, then the board would look to the bonding company involved to hire someone to complete the job “at no cost to the board,” Lindenfelser said.

Asked what options figure to be available to the board in its consideration of how to proceed, Lindenfelser said it could elect to “go ahead and award” a contract to one of the five bidders on the assumption that it can cover the cost or, failing that, dip into its capital reserves to make up the gap, or ask its architects, once again, to find ways to scale down the scope of the project and re-bid.

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