The construction manager for the Quincy High School rebuild has been fired from school projects in New Jersey because of a conflict with that state’s school building authority.
The construction manager for the new $126 million Quincy High School has been fired from 17 school projects in New Jersey because of a conflict with that state’s school building authority.
Gilbane Building Co. worked on more than 60 school projects in its eight-year history with the New Jersey Schools Development Authority. But a mold outbreak at one of its recent projects cost the state almost $20 million, and the relationship between the contractor and the authority quickly soured.
“We had some significant, fundamental differences about the roles and responsibilities of a project management firm,” authority spokesman Larry Hanover said. “We realized we just can’t work with them like this anymore.”
Gilbane spokesman Wes Cotter said the “difference of opinion” that led to the firing is specific to the situation in New Jersey and should not taint Gilbane’s reputation as “the leading builder of educational facilities in the whole country.”
Of the Quincy High project, he said Gilbane “will do everything necessary to make that school come off really well at that price we’ve agreed upon.”
Gilbane had $53 million in contracts with New Jersey’s school building authority, overseeing school projects in 14 communities.
In its termination letter, the authority asserts that Gilbane failed to review design elements that led to the mold outbreak at the Neptune Midtown Community School, failed to properly monitor the contractor, and failed to tell the authority about the problem.
Therefore, the authority contends, Gilbane failed to protect the authority from incurring the additional expense of the mold cleanup, which required tearing down part of the school and rebuilding it.
Cotter, however, said that as a project manager for the 17 projects, Gilbane was “purely in an advisory role.”
“We fulfilled the fine contractual requirements of our contract,” he said. “As program manager, we saw some of the difficulties that were taking place in the building, and in a detailed manner we documented those problems early and often and tried to help solve the ongoing issues.”
Although the contractor and architect for the Neptune project agreed to pay the state $6.5 million for the cost of removing the mold, Gilbane refused to pay the remaining $13 million. The authority sued Gilbane to recoup the money.
Cotter said Gilbane’s broader, advisory role in New Jersey is very different from its role as construction manager for the Quincy High project.
“We are in control of the whole scope of this project,” he said. “We hold all the contracts; all the contractors deal directly with us.”
Quincy was one of the first school districts in the state to build a school using a “construction manager at risk” model, which is supposed to set a guaranteed final price for the project and holds the contractor responsible for any cost overruns.
In reaction to the news from New Jersey, Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch said, “We are pleased with the project team and performance of Gilbane to date, but we will be holding their feet to the fire.”
Jennifer Mann may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.