N.S. council approves final settlement with Kendall Dean contractor

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NORTH SMITHFIELD – The town brought an official end on Tuesday to disputes with the contractor hired in 2018 to renovate the former Kendall Dean school.

Under an agreement passed unanimously following executive session March 9, North Smithfield will pay Calson Construction Corporation $250,000 for prior work converting the building into updated municipal offices.

The deal follows months of litigation with the company, which Town Council President John Beauregard said was billing North Smithfield for work that had not been fully completed, and charging late payment penalties on the disputed bill.

The Johnston-based company was originally hired to convert the former school into modern office spaces at a cost of $3,019,000, funds taken from a larger $12 million bond approved by voters in 2014.

Not counting the $250,000 settlement or legal fees, Beauregard said the project has now cost the town $3,956,905. The disparity, he said, is due to change orders submitted over the course of construction and other fees.

“There were a lot of change orders,” noted Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski this week.

Still, both town leaders said they’re satisfied with the outcome, which includes a mutual release for all obligations related to the renovation work.

“It actually is a very good deal for the town,” Beauregard said, noting that $176.500 of the $250,000 settlement was undisputed, which means the town only paid an additional $73,500 to settle the matter, while Calson took $250,000 off the bill.

“They said we owed $500,000,” Beauregard said.

“I would have liked to see us not pay anything more than what we owed, but we could have ended up with a worse deal, plus more legal fees,” Beauregard added. “This would have dragged out through October or November.”

“I think the settlement was a fair settlement,” said Zwolenski.

Calson was hired in 2018 under recommendation from the Municipal Buildings Review Task Force, the volunteer group tasked with guiding the renovation, along with other town building projects such as rehabilitation of the Town Annex and police department headquarters.

Calson was originally expected to complete work at Kendall Dean, focused primarily on interior renovations, within one year of their start date in October of 2018.

But it was not until May of 2020 that municipal staff was finally able to occupy the property.

And Zwolenski has said that since he took charge in December, he’s had municipal staff complete much of the finishing work, from unpacking boxes and assembling furniture, to connecting phone lines in the Emergency Management Agency’s new basement headquarters.

Councilors hired attorney Christopher Whitney to represent North Smithfield in a legal dispute with Calson last September, and had agreed to spend up to $25,000 on help from Providence-based firm Pierce Atwood LLP to settle the issue.

Last month, councilors notified Calson of their intent to recoup $75,000, funds that Beauregard said this week have now been rolled into the settlement.

Asked if he’s satisfied with the final product, Zwolenski replied, “somewhat.”

“There are little things that need to be addressed,” the administrator said.

“There are a couple things in there that you would only learn about after you take occupancy of the building,” said Beauregard. “If you were overseeing the construction, you might not pick up on it.”

Beauregard said overall, he’s happy with the outcome.

“Its a very functional building and easy to work in,” he said. “Overall, the building is done and it came out great.”

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