Tisbury’s emergency services facility delayed

The Tisbury selectmen labeled a botched job on the concrete slab poured for the town’s new emergency services facility (ESF) as a “breach of contract” and said they would insist on remediation from general contractor Seaver Construction.

“I think we have to go on the record, above and beyond saying we’re not happy,” selectman chairman Jeff Kristal said at a meeting yesterday morning. “This isn’t the end of it, either.”

Since no work can be done on top of the slab until the issues are resolved, ESF building committee chairman Joe Tierney said the project will be delayed by about three weeks. Repairs to the slab would likely delay construction by at least another month, he estimated, depending on how long it takes the town and Seaver Construction to hash out an agreement on the fix, the cost, and whose responsibility it will be.

The ESF project is already behind schedule by about one and a half to two months, Mr. Tierney said. The contract completion date is June 4, 2011.

The approximately 18,500-square-foot new ESF will house the fire, ambulance, and emergency management departments on the former town hall annex site across the street from Tisbury School. Voters approved $6.8 million for its construction and $640,000 for its design.

HKT Architects of Somerville designed the facility’s floor to have a slight slope from the back of the building towards the front, where the angle steepens so that water from wet fire trucks runs into drains out front.

The slab poured by Demello Concrete of Tiverton, R.I., a subcontractor hired directly by Seaver Construction, did not meet HKT’s design specifications, however.

Instead, as Tom Kondel explained, the slab as poured has a high spot towards the middle of the building, which would affect the floor’s drainage. Mr. Kondel is one of the town’s project managers from NETCO.

“I think that it’s important that we officially reject the slab as it was poured,” selectman Tristan Israel said.

Selectman Geoghan Coogan joined Mr. Israel and Mr. Kristal in approving a motion to do that.

Mr. Kristal suggested town administrator John Bugbee should write a strongly worded letter to Seaver Construction, with the advice of town counsel, to express the selectmen’s displeasure with how the project is going.

Mr. Coogan, a practicing attorney, said he did not think that was necessary.

“We’re taking the position right now that Seaver’s breached the contract with us, and we’re going to have to go to them and say we want it repaired, and oh by the way, we’ve got some legal concerns about it,” Mr. Coogan said.

Instead, he suggested the selectmen’s letter would say, “You’ve breached the agreement, here’s what we need to do, here’s what goes along with that. I think it can be all part and parcel of that same communication.”

Mr. Tierney and ESF committee members briefed the Tisbury selectmen about six repair options, four of proposed by Seaver Construction, prior to a meeting the selectmen held at 11:30 am at the Katharine Cornell Theatre.

Mr. Kondel proposed that the slab should be graded down to remove the high spot and to create a small amount of positive pitch towards the front, and then a non-skid epoxy coating applied overall.

Before the selectmen voted to accept Mr. Kondel’s option in concept, selectman Geoghan Coogan explained that it would have to be vetted thoroughly by everyone involved in the project and by town counsel.

“Essentially we’re saying we going to fix and repair it in accordance with this overall suggestion, with further details to be worked out later,” Mr. Coogan said.

Mr. Kristal suggested the selectmen should insist on approving the concrete subcontractor as one of those details.

“I don’t want Seaver to touch this again – they’ve already screwed up the concrete,” he said. “It’s poor oversight, and I think we need to stay on top of it with the conditions that we put on it. It was their subcontractor, but they’re ultimately responsible for their sub.”

Mr. Bugbee said it would be up to town counsel to come up with a suitably worded agreement and work out the details.

“I agree with the tenor that we need to approach Seaver with, but conversely, we’ve still got to work with these guys, theoretically, to get this job done,” Mr. Israel said.

He credited the town’s vigilance, and in particular Mr. Tierney’s, in catching the construction mistake.

After the meeting, Mr. Tierney, who visits the construction site almost daily, told The Times he and clerk of the works Gerry Dineen of NETCO were present on November 26 when the slab was poured. “We noticed it just didn’t look right, and went to the Seaver construction foreman, who acknowledged it wasn’t poured right,” Mr. Tierney said.

Attempts to remedy the situation resulted in a couple of dips in the floor where water would collect, Mr. Tierney said, which also raises concerns about liability for accidents that might occur because of a slippery floor.

HKT architects subsequently talked with Seaver Construction personnel, who came back with four proposed repair options. “We had architects, engineers, lawyers, and insurance companies looking at this,” Mr. Tierney said.

The ESF building committee met last week to discuss the various options and Mr. Tierney notified the selectmen they would need to make the decision on what should be done.

Looking at the bright side, he noted that the slab could have been much more difficult to repair if discovered when construction was further along. It is also a plus that there are no issues of structural integrity associated with the slab, Mr. Tierney said.

Nonetheless, as someone who has worked tirelessly on the ESF project for several years, Mr. Tierney said of the setback,” It’s very, very painful.”