Still trying to explain away their use of a debarred contractor on a school project in Billerica, CTA construction is now getting bad press in nearby Burlington, Massachusetts. The Burlington Patch reported on bannering by union carpenters in front of the Memorial School, who were highlighting both quality issues with CTA and their questionable selection of subcontractors.
In addition to their decision to hire Action Floors both in Billerica and Burlington, CTA also let out work in Burlington to Advanced Walls and Ceilings, a company that has twice been cited and fined by the state for failing to adhere to wage laws.
Action Floors and CTA came under fire in Billerica when the engineering firm hired to work on the project sent a scathing letter criticizing supervision of the project and the poor work done as a result.
The lack of oversight and avoidance of accountability is hard to accept in the current economy. How many honest contractors who employ local workers are pushed aside and struggle to keep their doors open when owners and general contractors allow these practices to occur?
Mehul Dhruv, the Principal of Engineers Design Group wrote to the project's architect that they were "extremely concerned with the performance of the General Contractor, their sub-contractors and the quality of their work."
At issue at that time was largely foundation work that was done in cold weather without proper protections which EDG described as "blatant disregard to various requirements and details on the contract documents" and failure "to correct the deficiencies brought to their attention."
Dhruv wrote that CTA "failed to provide any protection against cold weather to the green concrete and subgrade for foundations." The work the contractor did do Dhruv described as "absolutely not acceptable, it violates all the requirements of ACI Cold Weather Protection requirements, violates the contractor's submitted plan for cold weather protection and is totally inadequate in protecting the concrete against cold weather."
Members of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters have been asking questions in town with a 20-foot banner asking "Is the Paker School Safe?" It's a question that concerned Dhruv, as well who wrote that his company was "extremely concerned with the quality of the work performed by the contractor."
Dhruv noted that in addition to shoddy work, the contractor may have been trying to avoid or ignore suggestions that there were problems. "The contractor has not provided adequate time or notice for inspections, leaving insufficient time for correcting the deficiencies noted by the inspector."
It's hard to imagine the very strongly worded letter from the Principal of the engineering company to the Senior Vice President of the Architectural firm was the first attempt to address the issues with CTA and the shoddy work.
Not included in the story is the fact that one of the companies CTA hired to work on the project is prohibited from doing public work. Action Floors was debarred from bidding on or performing any public work for a period of three years in 2009 by the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents. (see line 3607 of linked spreadsheet)
Billerica Town Manager John Curran issued a statement claiming that any and all deficiencies found by the engineering firm were addressed before construction continued. The question remains how fully they were resolved and at what cost to Billerica taxpayers. And given CTA's apparent blatant disregard for oversight, project quality and acceptance of oversight, it remains to be seen if other letters will come out detailing similar problems with later stages of the project.
Carpenters will also be watching to see how Billerica treats CTA when it comes to grading them on the project. Only two years ago, Fox25 ran an investigative piece about contractors who do shoddy work but get passing grades by essentially blackmailing cities and towns.