New Science complex reveals old problems

As the Science Complex nears completion, the College is still hindered by previous problems with construction companies.

When construction began on the Science Complex in 1998, the College practiced a “multi-prime methodology,” which required hiring five separate contractors.

These five subdivisions included electrical, plumbing, mechanical, structural steel and general contractors.

Due to contrasting schedules, however, many of the projects fell months behind schedule.

“This was the biggest stumbling block in finishing projects,” Brian Murray, director of Construction and Planning and project manager of the Science Complex, said. “It’s like having five kids that don’t get along trying to work together.”

According to President Gitenstein’s report to the Board of Trustees on March 1, 2001, the College’s former general contractor, Paphian, was terminated for “persistently failing to advance this project in a timely manner.”

The construction progress was approximately nine months behind schedule, so the school turned to Surety Co, a bonding company, to complete the Chemistry and Physics buildings.

Since then, Paphian has been defaulted by projects in Princeton, South Brunswick and Newark, and was eventually disbarred from the state of New Jersey.

Surety Co. has hired a new general contractor, Daniel J. Keating, to construct a link to the Biology building, as well as to work on all other current construction projects on campus.

Basic design flaws are another problem according to Ramond Fangboner, biology department chairperson.

“There is a problem regulating the heating ventilation and air condition (HVAC) system,” Gail Simmons, dean of the School of Science, said. “We cannot control the temperatures in the rooms.”

Fangboner agreed. “The rooms can be freezing, even in the middle of the summer,” he said.

“We don’t want to nit pick about the small things,” Donald Lovett, professor of biology, said. “If we could just get the major temperature problem fixed, we’d be happy.”

Simmons said there are other minor problems due to design constraints, because the new building has been added onto an older one.

According to Simmons, small quirks are expected with the construction of any new building.

“You expect to have to fine-tune the system while you settle in for the first year or so,” she said.

“Our main concern is that the major problems aren’t getting fixed,” Simmons added.

According to Murray, the College will hire experts to determine who is responsible for these problems – the College or the engineers.

If the engineers are indeed to blame, the College will proceed to discuss fixing the problems with them, and if necessary, attorneys will be involved.

“Public institutions are very sure to be prudent in everything we do,” Murray said. “You have to watch every step you take.”

“We have a staff that is closely watching every dollar spent on someone else’s mistake,” he added.

No detailed statements about such a lawsuit can be made due to pending litigation. However, this means that the College is involved in a lawsuit that has yet to be resolved.

According to Murray, the College has changed its bidding policy to avoid future problems. The College used to bid publicly on their contractors, but now uses a new system called “pre-qualified” single lump sum.

With this method, the school demands profiles of the employees and financial statements signed by banks as well as references from other projects.