Town looks to recoup $75K on Kendall Dean delays, mediation begins Tuesday

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NORTH SMITHFIELD – Town officials have notified the contractor that renovated Town Hall of their intent to recoup $75,200 from a contract totaling more than $3 million due to the project not being completed on time.

And the refund request, sent to Calson Construction Corp. this week, is just the start of money the town hopes to get back on renovation of the former Kendall Dean School in ongoing litigation according to officials.

Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski said that attorneys from both sides will begin mediation on Tuesday, March 1, after failing to reach an agreement in a legal dispute that began last September.

The Municipal Buildings Review Task Force, a volunteer group that has overseen the Calson’s work, recommended that town councilors pass the $75,000, “construction change directive,” last week, notifying the contractor of their intent to get back the money.

“It’s not going to settle it,” Town Council President John Beauregard later told NRI NOW. “We have other issues with the contractor.”

The Johnston-based firm was hired to renovate the building at a cost of $3,018,902 in 2018, and change orders over the course of the project – initially expected to take one year to complete – added another $144,151 to the price, for a total of $3,163,053 owed to the contractor, according to town documents.

The original agreement included full interior renovation of the building’s three floors, including new electric, plumbing, heating, windows and more. It stated that work would be finished in 365 calendar days after a notice to proceed, and explicitly noted that if the company failed to achieve a certificate of substantial completion by the deadline, the town would be entitled to $500 for each day of default.

Calson broke ground on the project, aimed at turning the former school into suitable town and school offices, complete with Town Council chambers, in October of 2018.

Town records show that four change orders were approved during the months that followed at instruction from the MBRTF, then led by Councilor Paul Vadenais.

The last, a change increasing Calson’s fee by $27,945 in July of 2020, was for custom wood doors at the entrance of the building, a sewer ejector, a wire ejector, card reader installation and an item labeled “reverse swing of door,” costing $1,594, according to the order.

By that time, municipal staff had already started to settle into their new headquarters at 83 Greene St., with a relocation that began last May, some seven months after construction was slated to be finished.

And it seems that wasn’t the end of the town’s problems with Calson’s work.

Beauregard noted that the $75,000 change directive, approved unanimously by town councilors without discussion last week, only addresses items that were paid for and completed, but not to satisfaction, which were under warranty.

“If this is not paid, then it would also be included in the mediation,” Beauregard said.

Councilors began discussing potential litigation against the contractor just a few months after town staff moved into the building, in September of last year.

To date, the Town Council has agreed to spend up to $25,000 in legal fees to Providence-based firm Pierce Atwood LLP to settle the issue.

The board has also continued to approve payments to an architect from Saccaccio & Associates, who Beauregard noted is still working with town officials to finalize the project, addressing issues that he noted only come up after people have been working in the building.

Still unpacking: When NRI NOW visited the building earlier this month, town staff was still working to get items unpacked and in place, some nine months after the move. This picture shows furniture recently assembled by public works staff, along with the old Kendall Dean sign.

“He’s working with us on trying to get this project all wrapped up,” Beauregard said.

Zwolenski noted that while problems have come up since municipal employees moved into the structure, town staff has been able to address them without the need to hire additional contractors.

“We’ve addressed some situations through public works,” Zwolenski said.

According to the construction change directive approved on Tuesday, Feb. 16, the town is seeking liquidated damages for the period from Oct. 28, 2019 to Jan. 31, 2020 at a cost of $500 a day for a total of $47,000.

The directive also includes the return of OPM fees – money paid to the project manager – for the period from Oct. 28, 2019 through Dec. 31, 2020, of $28,199.

The meditation, beginning next week, is just the latest issue in a project that’s been a source of contention in town for many years, financed as part of a $12 million bond approved by voters in 2014. Former Town Councilor John Flaherty told NRI NOW last year that he felt that the project had been mismanaged, that it did not satisfy the original vision and that it failed to meet the voter mandate.

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