Fall River Durfee’s new school project general contractor under fire

FALL RIVER – Mayor Paul Coogan says he doesn’t understand why the owner of a local HVAC company publicly lambasted the general contractor in charge of the $ 263 million BMC Durfee High School construction project.

“He never came to me to discuss it,” Coogan said, referring to the accusations of incompetence brought against the Boston-based Suffolk Construction Company by Dwight. D. Silvia, owner and president of DDS Industries Inc.

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The mayor, in a statement early Wednesday evening, said construction-related issues that have arisen at the site and in the building have been “quickly resolved” since the ground was dug in late 2018.

Silvia – who previously said her company had a $ 26 million contract to install the heating, air conditioning and ventilation system in the new high school – submitted a long letter online Tuesday evening to a local news-focused Facebook page accusing Suffolk Construction of attempting to “cover up” what it calls “many deficiencies” that occurred inside the building.

“In 51 years of construction experience, I have never seen a building more poorly constructed than this structure,” wrote Silvia.

The new Durfee High School, which is slated to open next fall, is being built in front of the current school, which opened in 1978 with a price tag of $ 10 million higher than originally expected.

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A number of major structural problems have accumulated over the years. In 2018, an official said it would cost $ 480 million to completely renovate and repair the existing school.

Silvia accuses Suffolk Construction of a lack of supervision which would have led to serious missteps which, among other things, could lead to a mold infestation.

He also claims that Suffolk, acting as building manager, had “deliberately closed” certain vertical wall spaces called “chases” that were not equipped with a fire penetration system – a passive system designed to compartmentalize and prevent fire from spreading in a building.

Silvia congratulates Fall River Building Inspector Glenn Hathaway and Facility Maintenance Manager Chris Gallagher for identifying this specific problem “repeatedly”.

“Thank God!!” Silvia wrote. “It’s a huge breach of the construction manager’s obligation to provide a fireproof building, but they continue to build what could be a death trap. “

Silvia, whose employees have worked at the site for the past year, says it is likely that harmful mold will grow inside the building.

He said the plasterboard and cabinetry were saturated with rainwater last year before the building was waterproof – due to windows that had yet to be installed and a roof that was “not fully installed”.

A front view of the new Durfee High School slated to open next fall.

Silvia also cites what he says is improper plumbing installation which he says has been identified by the city’s plumbing inspector and will now need to be replaced.

Without the diligence of the plumbing inspector, Silvia said, the error “would have cost the city a tremendous amount of money to correct once the project was completed.”

Silvia also thanked a member of the Durfee High School Building Committee for recently noting that the shingles installed on the front facade of Elsbree Street did not meet project specifications.

He said Suffolk Construction, not the city, would end up paying for all of these fixes.

Silvia also alleges, without tangible proof, that “several members of the construction committee … share a business relationship with the owner of Suffolk Construction”, which he says constitutes a conflict of interest.

As for his own HVAC company, in his letter Silvia said he “had a few minor issues” but most were created by subcontractors he hired to fulfill his contract.

“Once we are made aware of a problem, we act quickly to resolve it,” he wrote.

When asked to respond to Silvia’s allegations of serious deficiencies at the construction site, Glenn Hathaway said on Wednesday: “I can guarantee 150% that they are all fixed or have been fixed.”

“And I can guarantee that we will not have a school like the one we had in the past,” he said.

Hathaway said the mayor decided to post a statement in response to Silvia’s letter on Facebook during a meeting Wednesday between himself, Coogan, Chris Gallagher and company attorney Alan Rumsey.

The mayor, in his statement, said “taxpayers’ money is not wasted” and that “residents must have confidence that our building watch committee and the site team have kept a watchful eye on the project “and which the site will continue to monitor on a daily basis.

“By the end of the year, our students will have a safe, well-built school that will last for decades,” Coogan said.

“Please know that the City has an excellent working relationship with Suffolk Construction and all of the subcontractors in the field,” he said.

A Suffolk Construction spokesperson released a brief statement Wednesday evening that “the project has passed all city inspections to date, and all of our work is well documented.”

“We are confident that our team will deliver a high quality, sustainable project that the students and citizens of Fall River will proudly and safely enjoy for many years to come,” he said.

In an interview Wednesday in her Ace Street office, Silvia – who was recently the subject of a Herald News story of a redevelopment project he undertook involving the demolition of an adjacent factory building – said the problems at the Durfee construction site “should never have happened in the first place”.

Silvia, in her online letter, accuses Suffolk Construction of putting together a management team made up largely of young workers with little construction experience – which, he said, is that “the under -treaters of this project are subjected to this nonsense every day “.

“You have a group of kids supervising and have no idea,” he said during the interview in his office.

Silvia says he has gone public with his criticisms of how the school project is being run to “raise awareness in the city about something that could be a potential problem in six months.”

“This is a $ 263 million project, don’t you deserve the building you paid for? ” he said.

The city’s share of the $ 263.5 million new school project is $ 98.5 million.

The Suffolk Construction logo can be seen outside the Elsbree Street site of what will be a new BMC Durfee High School.

DDS Industries owns a construction trailer on school property near Suffolk Construction.

Silvia said he typically visits the site and visits the building two to three times a month.

He says his management team is working on it every day of the week and that over the past year he has compiled photographs and videos illustrating various shortcomings.

Silvia, however, said he was unable to produce this evidence in such a short time.

Coogan said he was unaware that Silvia ever attended a monthly building oversight committee meeting, nor a single weekly construction meeting at the site in the Suffolk Construction trailer.

Silvia also claims that the city has always been slow to pay Suffolk Construction the funding allocated to the city each month by the state, which is then paid by Suffolk to DDS Industries and other contractors.

Coogan said it was the first time he had heard of it. Silvia, however, said he brought it to the mayor’s attention last April.

“He said he would look into the matter,” Silvia said.

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About Elisa C. Peachey

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