Thursday, May 9, 2019 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: The Broadview Public Library is undergoing construction, which has been delayed after the contractor defaulted. | File
The renovation of the Broadview Public Library, 2226 S. 16th Ave. in Broadview, recently hit a snag in the road after the general contractor abruptly backed out of the project, bringing the work to a screeching halt and sending library officials and community members into a frenzy.
During a public meeting on May 8 at Schroeder Park, 2600 S. 13th Ave. in Broadview, library board members maneuvered to get construction back on track and assured residents in the audience that the setback was not the result of any negligence or malfeasance on the part of library officials.
At Wednesday’s meeting, library officials said that their current predicament started when Poulos Construction Company, the general contractor the board hired for the $5.4 million renovation project, recently defaulted and could no longer perform the work.
Attempts to contact Poulos on Thursday afternoon were unsuccessful and no one from the company was present at the meeting. Library officials, however, indicated that a Poulos representative notified Keisha Hester, the library’s executive director, about the company’s status.
The project includes the renovation of the library’s existing 17,000-square-foot facility, the construction of a new 3,000-square-foot building built on an empty lot adjacent the current facility and the installation of a new facade to flow seamlessly in front of the old and the new buildings.
When library officials broke ground back in March 2018, they estimated that construction would be finished by June 2019. The contractor’s default, however, could push that completion date back by several months — perhaps to the end of this year.
Library officials, however, emphasized that the project is still on the path to completion and that construction will eventually resume once a takeover agreement is signed with Travelers Casualty and Surety Company, the entity that provides the $5.4 million bond put in place to protect the library district from precisely this scenario.
The agreement could be signed and approved by the board within a week and construction could pick back up in less than a month, officials said. They added that the parties involved in drafting the agreement, including the library board’s attorney and Travelers representatives, are expediting a drafting process that typically takes much longer.
Once the agreement is in place, Travelers will essentially take the place of Poulos and operate under the defaulted company’s contract with the library board. This way, library officials won’t need to go out to bid for another general contractor, which will only prolong the construction process.
The agreement also means that Travelers will hire what’s called a completion contractor, most likely Massachusetts-based VERTEX, to pick up where Poulos left off and resume the day-to-day general contracting work.
Representatives with Dewberry Architects Inc., the firm hired to oversee the project’s design, said that Poulos had completed around $4.1 million worth of work already before defaulting. Dewberry representatives said that they’ve monitored the work and that it was paid out incrementally, so it’s unlikely that much, if any, of that money was paid for work that wasn’t completed.
“The bulk of the work is complete in the lower level,” said Douglas Pfeiffer, an associate principal with Dewberry. “We’re very close to being able to move down to the lower level.”
Dewberry representatives said that once construction resumes, workers will finish some minor improvements on the lower level before going on to phase two of the project, when the first floor of the library will be closed off and the library’s operations moved downstairs. They added that they’re still vetting a little more than a dozen change order requests that need to be paid out.
On Wednesday, Katrina Arnold, the president of the library board, explained that Poulos was hired as the lowest bidder after an open and competitive bidding process.
“We have to accept the lowest bid by law,” she said. “They came with the lowest bid, saying that they could do everything we wanted done.”
In addition, Arnold said, Poulos was required, by law, to be bonded. According to Todd Bryant, an expert on surety bonds, “almost all public construction projects, as well as a number of private construction project, are backed by surety bonds.”
And contractor defaults aren’t all that rare, he added.
“In fact, contractors have a 26.24% failure rate, according to research conducted between 2011 and 2013,” Bryant wrote in an article in a major commercial construction news publication. Whether it’s financial issues or performance issues, once a critical point is reached, there’s not much else left but for the contractor to declare default.”
Arnold said that she wants the public to know that the construction process was handled in accordance with the law.
“Construction is not easy,” she said. “It is not easy. We just want people to be patient. We’re not trying to hide anything from the public or squander any money. We’re trying to make the best decisions possible and we’re doing everything we can to make sure that everything is done by the law and that the public interest is protected.” VFP
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