http://paloaltoonline.com/print/story/print/2014/01/17/palo-alto-fires-mitchell-park-library-contractor


Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 17, 2014

Palo Alto fires Mitchell Park Library contractor

City to look for replacement contractor after terminating its agreement with Flintco

by Gennady Sheyner

The opening of the beleaguered Mitchell Park Library and Community Center in south Palo Alto has been pushed back yet again, to this summer, following the termination last week of the city's contract with Flintco Pacific Inc., the contractor responsible for construction.

The firing means that Palo Alto is now looking for a new contractor to finish the long-overdue project, a process that Public Works Director Mike Sartor said should take about two months. After the new contractor is in place, it should take another few months to complete construction.

In a Jan. 10 letter to Flintco that cites "historically poor performance and failure to make adequate progress toward completion," City Manager James Keene directed the company to discontinue all work on the project and prepare to hand over control of its subcontracts to the city.

The project kicked off in September 2010 and was scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2012. The new contractor will be charged with fixing Flintco's mistakes and putting the finishing touches on the complex on Middlefield Road. Though the library and community center have been more than 90 percent complete for some time, Sartor told the Weekly, much of the work will have to be redone. The work list includes about 2,000 items, he said, mostly minor things like crooked pavers and aluminum sashes that need to be replaced.

Sartor estimated the new firm would need to deploy 50 to 60 workers per day to complete the project in two months.

The city's tension with Flintco had been building up over time but reached its climax in November, when the contractor missed its latest deadline for completion. Flintco had stated in early November it would obtain a "temporary certificate of occupancy" for the library building by Nov. 27, which would allow staff to start moving in. That did not happen, prompting the city to issue a notice of default on Dec. 4. The notice gave Flintco 10 days to come up with a full plan for finishing. According to Keene, Flintco failed to do that, too.

"The latest completion plan submitted by Flintco omits critical tasks, continues to lack subcontractor coordination and contains little detail to permit the city to track and verify progress," the letter states. "In addition, Flintco has claimed a rate of progress in clearing repairs and completion items that is greatly exaggerated and continues to report items as completed that are not complete."

In late December, Palo Alto officials met with Flintco representatives and the company's surety and announced their intention to terminate the contract unless it received a plan showing the project would be completed by late January.

The plan offered by Flintco on Dec. 23 failed in that task, Keene said.

Keene's Jan. 10 letter to Flintco states that the company's assertion that the project has reached completion "is yet another of many instances in which Flintco has demonstrated an unwillingness to accept responsibility for its own failings."

The Mitchell Park Library and Community Center is the largest and most expensive project in a $76 million bond to renovate the city's libraries that voters approved in 2008. Earlier this week, as he was recapping the city's 2013 accomplishments, Keene referred to the project as "an extreme disappointment" but pledged that it will open this year.

Sartor said in a press release that despite the disruption, "We are confident that a new general contractor will be able to finish the project faster and with better quality than if Flintco had stayed on the project."

The company's sureties now have 60 days to find a new general contractor. If that doesn't happen, the city would hire its own replacement contractor and charge Flintco and the surety, according to the city's announcement of the contract termination.

Online Editor Eric Van Susteren contributed to this report.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

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