College still in litigation over Science Complex

The College is seeking $900,000 in a trial that began Monday against Selective Insurance group. Selective insured the original Science Complex contractor, a company that was terminated for a lack of timeliness and quality.

“No building is ever built exactly the same again,” Provost Stephen Briggs said about the Science Complex construction. “These people are professionals, but they never built this building before. It very often takes several years to get everything working the way it is supposed to.”

The College is involved in litigation with three separate companies over problems in the Science Complex.

The College terminated the contract of the original general contractor, Paphian, on Feb. 5, 2001. In addition to Paphian, there were four other contractors involved in the project, working on steel, plumbing, electricity and heat and air conditioning.

When one fell behind on interior partitioning, three others who relied on the placement of the metal studs fell behind schedule also. Delays occurred when the College had to ask the contractor to redo block work.

In litigation that began in Jan. 2003, the College asserted claims that Paphian made mistakes that caused a leaky roof. Selective’s and Paphian’s lawyers are expected to allege that the problems were the fault of someone other than their insured.

The College had an insurance bond with Travelers Insurance, which looked into Paphian’s termination and hired a new contractor, Daniel J. Keating, to complete the project.

In accordance with the bond that the College bought, Travelers would hire someone to finish the job if the contractor made mistakes. Bonds are typically priced at about 2 percent of the construction cost.

“It’s a guarantee to the owner that the surety will finish the job, provided we were right in terminating,” Brian Murray, director of Campus Planning and Construction said.

Litigation with Travelers heated up in Aug. 2004. The College made a list of problems with the Science Complex after its completion and paid outsiders to repair them.

“Travelers did not complete the punch list, so the College brought in other people to fix things last summer,” Murray said.

CUH2A, an engineering firm with headquarters in Princeton, found that fume hoods in science labs exhausted the lowest necessary amount of fumes, but not enough to prevent odors. Over the summer, the fume hoods were improved to reduce odors.

Also, the interior walls were spotted. Apparently, Daniel J. Keating initially used a different brand of the color canary yellow to touch up the walls.

The College has also been in litigation since Oct. 2003 with original engineers Syska & Hennessy over vibrations in the observatories and possible heat and air conditioning problems.

The College hired D’Huy Engineering, Inc, based in Bethlehem, Pa., to discover the cause of the vibrations. The report will be available in a few weeks.

Two observatories that house an 11-inch Celestron and a 16-inch Meade telescope vibrate, causing blurry images.

A third open-air observatory was built above a mechanical room. There is no occupancy permit yet, so the observatory’s six telescope stands are empty. The physics department said it is useless for astronomical observations.

The College plans to deal with possible heat and air conditioning issues in the complex after commencement, when workers will not get in the way of professors.

“With public institutions, this is becoming a way of life,” Murray said. He said he reads law books before he goes to sleep at night.

According to New Jersey state law, public institutions are required to publicly advertise and award a contract to the “lowest responsible bidder whose bid, conforming to the invitation for bids, will be the most advantageous to the state college.”

“The key element is to pre-qualify,” Murray said. “Contractors must have done similar projects successfully.”

Now, the College has a list of qualifications and requires references for when contractors bid. Murray said he shared the College’s policy with other Colleges, such as Stockton and Rowan, which housed its students in hotels because of construction problems.

“Today that contractor would not be allowed to bid,” Murray said. “I’ve been told we have the most stringent qualifications now.”

Thus, the library construction under Hunt Construction Group is well underway, and the College is satisfied with the contractor’s progress.

However, the College is now waiting for a response from surety Liberty Mutual over the termination of the contract for the apartment complex construction, a joint venture for AST Development and Cambridge Construction Management.

The surety has to investigate if the College was right in terminating the contract before it will hire a new contractor to finish the buildings.