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School Project's Costs Rise

Contractor Seeks $1.7 Million More

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 old.

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 behind schedule.

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 start-up delays.

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 payment.

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 ago.

"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. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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