Metzger Drive Apartment construction expected to resume soon

Work will resume once more on the beleaguered Metzger Drive Apartment complex project, the office of Campus Planning and Construction said. The College is near to closing a takeover agreement with the project’s insurance company, which will bring in a new contractor to complete the work.

Brian Murray, director of Campus Planning and Construction, said he anticipates the agreement to be finalized in the next couple of weeks. After that, the construction can resume. The takeover agreement will specify a target end date for the project, but that date has not yet been identified.

By law, all state construction projects are required to be covered by a performance and payment bond. The bond ensures that a project is completed if the original contractor is unable to complete the work required.

Work on the apartments was stopped Feb. 12, when the College terminated the original contractor, AST/Cambridge Construction Management. The College had discovered extensive water damage in the interiors of the apartments, most noticeably in Apartment 1.

While the original contractor had begun plans to repair the damage, the company notified the College that it was financially unable to complete the project. The College then entered into talks with the contractors and the surety company, Liberty Mutual, and terminated AST and Cambridge Construction.

Following a declaration that a contractor is in default, Murray said a surety company is required to decide whether it will take over the project or decline to do so, claiming the termination of the initial contractor is wrongful.

Murray said the College has all indications that Liberty Mutual will take over and hire a contractor to complete the buildings by removing the damaged interior materials, cleaning the buildings and reinstalling the interior.

Murray also said he is not concerned about the mold damage to the buildings, as the contractors have developed a remediation plan, which has been reviewed by environmental consultants and the Department of Community Affairs, the state agency responsible for reviewing state construction.

Despite the bond ensuring the contractor is replaced, the problems with the apartments are costing the College. During its summer meeting, the Board of Trustees allocated close to $500,000 to the project.

Kitchen Associates, the architect, received $210,292, and RAP/Moscher & Doran, the project engineers, received $123,920. Murray said the two would ensure the new contractor builds the apartments according to plan.

“You have continuity,” Murray said of the decision to keep the architects and engineers. “There’s no reason not to do that.”

Schneck, Price, Smith and King, a Morristown-based 60-attorney firm reviewing the takeover agreement for the College, was allotted $165,000 for agreement review.

Murray said the new athletic fields are continuing on schedule, and are expected to open in November. Workers are currently putting in sidewalk near the new parking for the stadium, and have completed drainage work for the softball field. Work on topsoil and irrigation for the fields will begin soon.

The contractor, Hunt Construction, is one of the nation’s largest stadium builders in the country. It recently completed work on Citizen’s Bank Park, the home of the Philadelphia Phillies, and was responsible for the New Library project on campus.