March 29, 2006
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB, Courant Staff Writer
Delays in the start of construction
and other problems at Noah Webster MicroSociety Magnet School have
led to more than $1.7 million in additional costs in the renovation
project, sparking a flurry of claims, accusations and a lawsuit.
The general contractor on the project,
C&R Development Co., has asked the city for an additional $1.7
million to cover the costs brought on by the delays and by unforeseen
conditions - including the discovery of an underground storage tank
and a buried classroom.
Included in the total is $561,000 to pay Guarco Construction - a
subcontractor that walked off the job because it claimed it wasn't
being paid for extra work. Guarco Construction, meanwhile, has filed
a lawsuit against the city, C&R and the city's program manager,
alleging that some of its bills for extra work are more than a year
Further complicating the picture at
Noah Webster, other subcontractors are complaining of late payments
for change orders that they say they were asked to undertake.
Despite the blizzard of claims, James
Keaney, Program Director for Diggs Construction - the firm overseeing
most of the school construction projects - said that the project
remains within its budget, though he admitted that budget is tight.
The project, now due for completion in April, is about four months
If costs are higher than the state-approved
budget of $31.73 million, it is not yet clear who might pick up
the tab - the state, city taxpayers or bonding companies insuring
the project, said Carl Nasto, the city's deputy corporation counsel.
The $1.7 million claim C&R filed
with the city is seeking money to pay subcontractors for overtime
and other costs associated with project delays.
The total includes $495,000 for Guarco
to cover the costs of extra work and overtime Guarco put in so that
it could keep to the original schedule. C & R is also seeking
more than $66,000 to pay Guarco extra money for having to do work
in the winter, rather than the summer or fall, because of initial
Ultimately, Guarco walked off the job.
C&R, in its claim, is asking for nearly $300,000 that it says
it paid to another firm to finish Guarco's work.
Carl Guarco, the owner of Guarco Construction,
said that he ran into several major unforeseen problems on the Webster
job, and that officials for C&R Construction asked him to do
the extra work.
For example, Guarco said, when he was
excavating the ground, he ran into a buried foundation, possibly
an old classroom, that no one knew was there. He had to remove the
structure and pay to dump the material.
According to his lawsuit, Guarco was
given approval to remove the foundation and he billed just over
$140,000 for that work on April 15, 2005, but he never received
C&R's lawyer, Gary Sheldon, of
Pepe & Hazard, said the company has submitted all costs to the
city in a timely manner and is waiting for payment so that it can,
in turn, pay subcontractors.
"C&R is the middle man between
the city and the subcontractors. To the extent that something has
been around for a year, it's been in front of the city for a year.
We don't have any money we've been sitting on."
Keaney, of Diggs Construction, said
officials in his office are working with C&R to see if any of
the extra costs Guarco is claiming should be considered work that
was expected to be completed as part of the original contract.
Also, Keaney said, his office is asking
for evidence to back up some of the costs Guarco says he incurred.
Guarco is insistent that he is owed the money he asked for, and
that any questions about his bill should have been resolved long
"Who can afford to work for the
city?" Guarco asked rhetorically. "You have to fund the
schools. You are legally bound to do the extra and then they don't
pay them. ... I had to leave that job because the extras were so
big and I wasn't getting paid."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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