Chappy firehouse construction halted by dispute
An electrical sub-contractor's insistence that he be paid for travel time and Edgartown's unwillingness to meet his demand has halted work on Chappaquiddick's nearly completed new firehouse.
The project's managers are searching for a new electrician. For now, the fire truck destined for the new building sits in the yard of local volunteer firefighter, Anthony "Skip" Bettencourt.
The construction pause has its roots in the often inconvenient realties of traveling to and from Chappaquiddick, the small community on the eastern end of the Island, linked to Edgartown by a three-car ferry and a narrow strip of barrier beach.
Construction of the new Chappy firehouse has stopped due to a dispute between the electrical sub-contractor and Edgartown. For now, the fire truck it will house sits in a firefighter's yard. Photo by Julia Spiro
The crush of ferry travelers - beachgoers, construction workers, landscapers, and residents - can often result in waits more than an hour long. Adding to the inconvenience, once on Chappy, construction workers do not have easy access to any supply warehouses.
While the wait is simply an inconvenience that many locals have learned to endure, Scott Viveiros, president of SJV Electric, the electrical sub-contractor for the firehouse, views the wait in the ferry line as time on the job for which he should be paid.
Mr. Viveiros got a taste of working on Chappy as a subcontractor. When he was asked to take on additional work as a result of unanticipated change orders, he insisted he be paid for travel time.
Steve Berlucchi, Dukes County engineer, who is serving as the project overseer, said that the town offered to pay SJV Electric for several change orders based on time, material, and equipment, but not travel time. Mr. Berlucchi called Mr. Viveiros's requested payments "outrageous." And Harold Zadeh, a Chappaquiddick resident appointed clerk of the works for the project, said SJV Electric's requested payments appeared to be excessive.
Despite the delay, Mr. Berlucchi said this week that he expects the final cost of the project will be $809,972, less than the town's anticipated cost. But this figure does not include the additional work
related to change orders, which
he estimated at approximately $5,000.
Time is money
Mr. Viveiros told The Times this week that if the town wants SJV Electric to finish additional work on the firehouse, it must include the extra cost of travel time. "The town must pay travel time to the men," he said. "It's a Department of Labor law, and they don't want to pay it." Mr. Viveiros estimated that a day of work on the change orders would cost approximately $1,500, including travel time.
Mr. Viveiros made it clear that there is no conflict between SJV Electric and BC Construction, the general contractor for the project who, he said, is caught in the middle. "BC Construction is trapped," he said. "There is no architect and engineer. To not have those main players involved does not make much sense, but that's the way the town chose to go."
When Mr. Viveiros worked as sub-contractor to BC Construction on the electrical work that did not include change orders no dispute arose over travel compensation. The work at issue now is the result of change orders and was not a part of the original contract.
Mr. Viveiros explained that there is a great expense in traveling to and from Chappaquiddick for construction work. He pointed out the long waits in the Chappy ferry lines and argued that he should be paid for that time. He summed up the dilemma by stating that "the issue at hand is that the town does not want to pay the cost of travel, and that is against the law."
Michael Cresta, president of BC Construction, also noted the high cost of extended travel time as the root of the dispute. He added that the firehouse "had some electrical issues that were design flaws. They created several change orders towards the latter part of the job." He said he is working on finding another electrician to complete the change orders, because SJV Electric is not obligated to do them.
A dire need
Mr. Zadeh, who is also a volunteer firefighter, said the old firehouse was "a one stall fire station that was in dire need of repair." Chappy firefighters eventually hope to acquire and store a tanker in the new firehouse.
The town voted to appropriate $500,000 for construction of a new Chappaquiddick firehouse at the 2003 Edgartown annual town meeting. In the 2005 Edgartown annual town meeting, the town voted to appropriate an additional $600,000 towards the project.
Mr. Zadeh says he hopes that the project will be complete by the end of this June. For now, the fire truck is being stored at the house of Mr. Bettencourt, a Chappy resident and volunteer firefighter. Mr. Zadeh said he is confident that having the truck parked temporarily at Mr. Bettencourt's house adds no risk to the safety of Chappaquiddick residents. He added there are plans to bring the truck to the station in the next week.
Mr. Cresta said he is also confident that the firehouse will be complete soon. He said, "It's a beautiful fire station. I think it's a really nice project. The people down there are just wonderful to work with. I mean, logistics are very difficult down there on Chappy, but there were some great contractors."