The Town of Groton fired the general contractor building the town’s new central fire station Monday, putting into motion backup plans that town officials have had in place since TLT Construction of Wakefield submitted the low bid for the $9M project in 2012.
At a meeting of the Board of Selectmen on Monday January 27, Town Manager Mark Haddad and BoS Chairman Peter Cunningham announced that TLT had been fired after a joint meeting of the selectmen and the Central Fire Station Building Committee that morning. The town alleges that TLT “abandoned the project” because it failed to supervise the construction work, didn’t supply enough skilled workers for the project, didn’t keep a project manager and superintendent on site, and didn’t pay subcontractors.
The town has taken over direct control of construction and temporarily hired two TLT employees to continue to manage the project. It is also relying on its own Clerk of the Works, a watchdog position the town has staffed since the project began. One subcontractor, in charge of applying the building’s clapboard siding, is being replaced.
Cunningham said the cost to the town would remain the same as under the TLT contract, because TLT was allocated a 15% profit allowance. With TLT out of the picture, those funds will be used to pay the temporary employees and provide supervision, he said.
The town of Sutton, MA, fired TLT last October over disputed work on a school building, and the state of New Hampshire fired it from a National Guard facility construction project in 2012.
Haddad, Cunningham, and other town officials stated very plainly that the construction on the building, on Farmers Row just west of the town center, is “first rate.” Only minor problem have cropped up, and those have all been resolved, Cunningham said. The project is about two third done, is running about three weeks behind schedule, and should be completed in late May, he said.
The four-bay station includes two stories of offices and living facilities and training areas. It will bring together the town’s fire department and emergency medical service first responders in the same building for the first time.
According to town officials, TLT’s reputation caused some concerns when bids were opened and the company was declared the low bidder. When the town did its due diligence on TLT in 2012, representatives from the town’s architectural firm dug into the state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance files on the bidders. In their report, the architect’s representatives reported that:
…. the files revealed there were over 100 court cases filed in the jurisdictions of Barnstable, Middlesex, Suffolk, Plymouth, and Essex counties naming TL T Construction Corp. either as the plaintiff, or defendant.
Most of the cases involved nonpayments to subs and or suppliers.
Currently, there are five court cases pending as mentioned in their update statement. These cases all revolve around payments to subcontractors and suppliers.
The files also showed over fifty requests for direct payment by subcontractors and or suppliers.
Despite the less-than-glowing reports, the town granted the contract to TLT to avoid potential litigation if it selected a higher bidder, according to Cunningham and BoS Vice chairman Josh Degen. Working with town counsel, the town put numerous safeguards in place to protect the town and the project, they said.
In August, 2013, the first problems surfaced. Sub contractors were not paid by TLT, and the town invoked a performance bond in order to get them paid and to have work continue. TLT reportedly ran out of cash in December, and that triggered the performance bond again; the bonding company, Western Surety, provided a loan of $140,000 to pay off all outstanding obligations then, bringing the subcontractors up to date before 2013 ended.