Stow Independent... Online
March 28, 2012
Stella on the Hot Seat Over Demo
By Nancy Arsenault
As the Center School demolition nears completion, a heated discussion
between Selectman Chair Jim Salvie and General Contractor Joe Stella
took place last night. The topic: the potentially dangerous
situation around the demo earlier this month that took place without
the full disconnection of live gas and electric service to the building
being torn down.
An OSHA investigation and newly released report regarding the demo did
not answer the questions that the Selectmen felt were most important:
Who is at fault, what oversights caused this to happen, and how can it
be prevented from occurring in the future? For those answers, Salvie
called in the people closest to the project, primarily Joe Stella
of Stella Construction, the General Contractor for the school
project. Stella, however, did not provide much more information than
Salvie already had, something that visibly riled the Board’s
Owner’s Project Manager Paul Griffin said, “It’s state law that a
demo is not supposed to occur before written confirmation from the
utility companies stating that utilities are completely shut off. That
must be received by the contractor and the Building Inspector. We did
not have those letters.”
Stella countered that despite those written documents not being
present, the demolition contractor and the excavator operator were
aware of where live areas were and were working around them in a safe
manner. Griffin reminded Stella that the utilities were actually in the
basement of the very area they were ripping down, and even though they
may have been shut off by contractors at the site, they were still
receiving live feeds from the street source. “It was a safe situation,”
said Stella emphatically.
Salvie continued to ask Stella who at the job site was responsible for
allowing the contractor to proceed, with Stella continuing to refuse to
name names. “I find it hard to believe that now, 21 days after this
occurred, you still can’t tell me about these communications that may
have taken place,” said Salvie to Stella. “Or are you just refusing to
answer my questions? You’re the contractor on the largest
construction project in town. We’re talking about gas being live at a
school site. I’m entitled to an answer no matter what.”
Stella insisted he had answered Salvie’s questions to the best of his
knowledge and if Salvie was looking for someone to blame, Stella did
not have names. He again insisted that despite the situation with the
utilities, the job site had been safe during the demolition.
Bill Wrigley suggested that perhaps more answers could come from a
discussion with Hudson Light & Power who was so angered at the
potentially dangerous situation, that they have contacted state
authorities to remove Stella’s accreditation.
Griffin then informed Salvie that the regular project supervisor was
out sick for several days during the demo period, with a substitute
supervisor provided by Stella on site. Griffin indicated that perhaps
this is where the communication breakdown may have occurred. “He was
not familiar with the site work as much as the regular manager would
have been,” he said.
Griffin also said the demo contractor could be described as aggressive
in his push to get the demo job completed. “He was very eager to get it
done because he was working on a fixed price under his agreement with
Stella,” he said.
Griffin also said about the various subcontractors, ”We are seeing this
situation with many subs. They are all working on such a short margin,
they don’t think they can finish the jobs in some cases.” He later
referred to the subcontractor situation at the job site as a “catch me
if you can” environment, requiring intense supervision and monitoring
Salvie encouraged the Building Inspector to consider changing the
town’s requirements to only issue a demo permit after proper paperwork
has been received and to now continue to pay intense attention to what
occurs during the remaining months of the project.
Salvie did not back down in his questioning of the project team, asking
next if they intended to submit all of the state required paperwork to
ensure the town would not lose $600K in reimbursements for
green-related design and materials. Griffin said that he had sent a
letter to Stella giving him 30 days to produce the documentation, of
which Stella has about 10 days remaining to complete the work.
Griffin also said that $600K has been set aside from future payments to
Stella, as insurance that the town will not lose money if somehow, that
paperwork is not provided. Stella assured Salvie that he saw no reason
the documentation would not come through in time.
Salvie also asked the group how confident they were that the school
would actually be ready to open in September. “100%,” said ESBC
Co-Chair Ellen Sturgis, “There is not an option.” Griffin added, “I’d
tell you right now if there were any concerns.”
The Board unanimously approved Town Administrator William Wrigley’s
budget for FY 2013, with some areas seeing cuts since the last
presentation. The projected income for the town is a little over 4%
more than was received for the current year and expenditures are also
up, a little more than 3 percent.
Most remarkable, is the fact the town has 1.259 million in reserves
while most towns are scraping through their savings to make ends meet,
according to Salvie who has recently attended meetings with Bolton and
Lancaster. “Without the inclusion of the air conditioner
requested for Hale, this capital request budget seems to be at an
all-time low,” said Jim Salvie.
A further examination of the budget in more detailed form will be
published in the weeks leading up to the May Town Meeting.
Mark Your Calendars
The Selectmen also made note of several events coming up that they hope
residents will take the time to attend. On April 5th, at 6:30 pm at
Hale Middle School, will be a public forum to discuss the proposal for
the renovation and expansion of the athletic facilities at the high
school, a project that will have a financial impact on Stow residents
and will require a positive vote at Town Meeting in order to pass.
This Saturday, a Community Open House at the new Center School will be
held from 8:30 – 10:30am. Also on Saturday, the Stow Conservation Trust
is hosting a Backyard Chickens Seminar at Mistletoe Farm from 10 to