Published in the December 31, 2015 edition


NORTH READING – Gilbane Construction, the main contractor on the high school-middle school project, has notified the Secondary Schools Building Committee they are seeking to carry the work on the school’s lower softball field and drainage into 2016 due to the presence of ledge at the site where the fields are planned.

At the same time, Gilbane has applied for mediation regarding disputed change orders still outstanding on the project. SSBC Chairman Chuck Carucci said Gilbane walked out of a meeting Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 22, because they didn’t agree with the SSBC’s numbers regarding the change orders still due.

Gibane representatives Joanna Kripp and Matt Skillin left the meeting after they were asked “very simple questions” on whether Gilbane has provided supporting documentation on all of the financial items in dispute for all of the items Gilbane claims work has been done and they have not received payment, according to SSBC member Sean Delaney.

The SSBC, through their project manager PMA Inc., has been requesting Gilbane to provide documentation on the charges in dispute for months, “simply asking that they provide documentation for all the items they say work has been done and they have not received payment,” according to Delaney.

“They did not provide it, they had no legitimate answer or response to it and walked out of the meeting,” Delaney said.

Two weeks ago the SSBC again asked Gilbane to supply the documentation and Gilbane promised to provide it within a week, but PMA says it still hasn’t received the information.

As of the Dec. 22 meeting, the SSBC learned that Gilbane says it is owned over $900,000, while up until recently the SSBC thought the number in dispute was around $400,000. SSBC member Stephen O’Leary agreed the number has gone up significantly in the last two months.

O’Leary said Gilbane’s request for mediation is “extremely premature.”

“PMA and this committee has been asking for documentation (on the disputed change orders) for months. They have yet to provide sufficient justification for dollar amounts they’re claiming. For them to be requesting mediation without providing any type of documentation or counter offer is unfortunate and extremely premature.”

O’Leary said he hopes Gilbane pulls back its mediation request and provides the documentation so there’s some grounds for a meaningful discussion between the two sides. “To date they’ve been very uncooperative.”

Delaney said the town’s contract language calls for mediation if both parties agree to it but, he said, it doesn’t require the town to approve. Delaney proposed a motion to request Gilbane to withdraw their request for mediation and to request documentation be provided to the SSBC.

Delaney’s motion was approved by the SSBC unanimously.

Under the circumstances the SSBC declined to complete an evaluation of Gilbane’s performance. The evaluation was self-generated by Gilbane and the SSBC was asked to respond to it.

“I can’t see responding to the evaluation with all these issues pending,” commented Phil Dardeno.

Architect’s report

Brad Dore of Dore and Whittier said items continue to be “knocked off” the punch list. Progress down on the fields hasn’t been as fast as everyone would like, he admitted, because of the discovery of more ledge but they are looking at relocating the field somewhere between 12 and 20 feet to the southwest so they can minimize the impact of the ledge.

Gilbane has given notice it will remove all of their construction trailers as of Jan. 6. The SSBC discussed this issue at length but it was still far from clear what space, if work any, the town will provide for Gilbane and PMA going forward. SSBC member Jerry Venezia suggested checking the contract to see what’s required.

Abutter’s concerns

As she has for several months now, Alison Carlson, 15 Hill St., expressed her concern and unhappiness about the stairwell lights in the high school academic wing, which are left on all night. The SSBC said the lights are designed to be left on at night and can’t be altered without going into the main electrical panel, at considerable expense.

Mrs. Carlson also complained she has a problem with mice since the old high school was torn down and asked the committee to foot the bill for an exterminator. Carucci said the SSBC can’t spend taxpayers’ money outside the boundaries of the project and to do so for Mrs. Carlson would set a precedent.