Even though they were told that no action would be taken on the high school renovation project, several residents spoke about their disappointment in the delay in the project at the Town Council meeting Tuesday night.
While the Town Council appointed Maggie Morelli to take the place of her husband Steve Morelli on the Council and then appointed Rachel Rochette as the new Deputy Mayor, most were in attendance for item three on the agenda.
The Town council approved no more than $10,000 to hire Attorney Tim Corey from the law firm Hinckley, Allen & Snyder LLP of Hartford, to help the town decide what action to take next when it comes to the high school renovation project.
Public Works Director Art Simonian explained in broad strokes why the project was back before the Council.
"About nine or 10 months ago the Public Building Commission got the cost estimates back and they were over the $69.9 million budget," Simonian said. "At that point we went the project back to the Board of Education to see if there were any places we could trim and cut. It was decided by the Board of Ed to build a tech ed wing and steel building which could also be used for swing space and that would keep us within budget. That was approved by the PBC and the state approved the plan in July this year.
"On August 30, the PBC was told by the construction team (Silver, Petrucelli and Associates, Gilbane and FIP) that the project was $780,000 over budget. The three firms were then asked if they thought there was a way to get the project back under budget and they all responded it couldn't be done. Per the Town Charter the PBC referred the project back to the Town council and that is where we are now."
Corporation Counsel Bob Webber then gave his opinion to the Town Council to hire outside legal counsel to deal with this complicated issue. He said that his firm does almost all of the legal work for the town but there are certain times that outside legal help is needed. He offered as examples the town's fight versus the proposed VIP and the proposed Broadview housing complex.
"First people must recognize the difference between private and public building," Webber said. "If you want to add a garage, you get an estimate and you have the ability to hire or fire and you can do it at a moment's notice. When municipalities try to build there are government restraints, there are municipal charters and there are state regulations. The road is filled with red tape. The process is incredibly cumbersome.
"I made a recommendation to get outside help and this person, Tim Corey, has dealt with this exact same kind of rough patch. He has dealt with Sacred Heart University, in Westbrook and recently when Middletown built their new high school. The goal is for him to come in and help us accomplish our mission, which is to get the high school built and built well within the budget. He will give us a fresh set of eyes. The bottom line is there are four or five options. I would like to know where each door leads from someone who has walked through that door and that is what he will provide for us."
After the Council approved the motion, most adjourned into the adjacent hallway. Dean Petrucelli, one of the architects was asked to comment on the project but walked away and said "no comment."
Berlin Board of Education President Gary Brochu said, "Certainly bringing in expertise to find out what our options are is a good thing. The test is what we will do going forward. I believe this issue will turn into an issue of will."
Below is Corey's biography from his firm's website.
"In a legal career spanning two decades, Tim has successfully recovered multi-millions of dollars in damages for his clients across the United States. Focusing in Construction and Commercial Litigation, he has successfully represented high-profile, international clients, including: top ENR contractors, a major pharmaceutical corporation, a world leader in energy plant construction, and many of the world’s leading surety companies. Tim’s legal counsel has also proved successful for general contractors and sureties in arbitration and mediation, and in federal and state court. He has arbitrated, tried, or litigated cases nationwide in major metropolitan markets including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Louisville, Boston, and Jackson. Tim is the former Chair of the Connecticut Bar Association Construction Law Section. His many professional accomplishments include the expansion of the law regarding a Connecticut contractor’s recovery under the “Eichleay Formula” for suspension of work claims before the Board of Contract Appeals and the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. An in-demand panelist and speaker, Tim has presented programs and seminars on emerging trends and changes in construction and surety law. As a keynote speaker, he has lectured at the Connecticut Bar Association, the National Association of Credit Managers, and the Cambridge Institute in Massachusetts."
Hinckley, Allen & Snyder LLP
Pepe & Hazard LLP
Managing Partner (2003-2006)
Recipient of the Martindale-Hubbell® AV Peer Review Rating
Currently listed in Connecticut Super Lawyers for the areas of Construction Litigation and Construction/Surety.
Currently listed in Woodward/White Inc.’s Best Lawyers in America in the Litigation – Construction category