Fingers Pointed as Construction Still Incomplete at Donley and Glencairn

Tuesday, December 10, 2019, 5:06 pm
By: 
Alice Dreger

The snow is falling, winter break is coming, and insulation remains exposed at the new Donley and Glencairn elementary schools – projects that were supposed to be complete before the school year started.

Now the general contractor and another contractor are pointing fingers at each other, the District has terminated a contract, and it isn’t clear when the work will be finished. And the same players are now working on new buildings at Pinecrest and Whitehills, buildings that are supposed to be finished before the start of next year’s academic calendar.

At a scheduled meeting of East Lansing’s School Board Monday night, ELPS Superintendent Dori Leyko said she has been wanting to give the community tours of the new Donley and Glencairn buildings. But, she said, she has felt that she can’t welcome the community to the new schools when there is still obvious external material missing.

Leyko said the material missing includes metal siding, canopy materials for the entrances, gutters, and downspouts. She said it was obvious that such material ought to be in place as seasonal rain and winter weather set in.

The lead contractor for the new schools’ construction is Lansing-based Clark Construction. The specialty contractor that was supposed to complete the work at issue is Midwest Wall Company from DeWitt.

Leyko said last night that in consultation with Clark and the District’s legal counsel, the District terminated the contract with Midwest Wall for failure to complete the work.

After the meeting, Leyko told ELi that the District has paid for the work that was completed and that “there is funding to finish the work.”

She said that Clark Construction is looking for a replacement contractor and that the District is also trying to get the materials needed.

Says Leyko, “At this point, I do not have an anticipated date of completion for the work at Donley and Glencairn.”

He said, he said

ELi reached Dean Bourdon, owner of Midwest Wall, by phone today. Bourdon told us that delays were caused in part by the need to order “raw sheet materials and custom colors,” as well as by the general labor shortage in Michigan.

He said that a change in the “scope of work” was made for Donley and Glencairn, “decisions made outside of my control [that] delayed the project.”

Bourdon said it was Clark Construction’s project manager, Dave Warner, who originally decided to suggest changes to the scope of work.

Reached by phone, Warner declined to speak to ELi, but Sam Clark of Clark Construction did phone us back. According to Sam Clark, Midwest Wall proposed the change of scope in order to save the District money.

In reply to Sam Clark’s claim, Bourdon said it is technically true that his company made the proposal for the change. But, he said, it was done specifically at the request of Clark’s project manager who wanted to see if the District could save money. The change, Bourdon says, was meant to save the District about $30,000.

Everyone agrees that it is a huge disappointment to have the work unfinished and to see the District’s contract with Midwest Wall cancelled.

What they disagree about is who is at fault.

Said Sam Clark, Midwest Wall “had committed” in “countless communications” to getting the job done on time. “I’m very disappointed by this,” he said, “and I didn’t want it on the record in your paper that we made the change that caused the problem.”

Said Bourdon, “I get paid by how much work I do. Why would I want to make the scope smaller and save the school money? That’s not how I do business. I like to do more work and make more money.”

He said he did what Clark’s project manager asked, and now he’s been made “the scapegoat.”

Winter weather woes

The timeline for this construction was always a challenge, Bourdon said, particularly given the very difficult weather last winter and the skilled-labor shortage in Michigan. He said he feels “blindsided” by how he was treated by the District, as he says he was never called in to discuss the problem.

“All of a sudden we get a default notice [from the District]. I didn’t see that coming at all.”

He assumes the District “probably took everything Clark said as fact. …Now I’m the scapegoat holding the bag.”

Bourdon said that his and one other company bid on the work they were contracted to do at Donley and Glencairn.

For Pinecrest and Whitehills, his company was the only bidder on the work they are now contracted to do for those two buildings.

Bourdon said there have been “zero problems” at Pinecrest and Whitehills “besides that Clark Construction has never been on time once in my ten-year career of working with them. If you dig in at Pinecrest and Whitehills, they say they are on schedule but they are not.”

He concluded, “They don’t get things done on time and they look for a scapegoat. And unfortunately, I am it.”

Leyko has made clear she does not hold Clark Construction responsible for the problem: “I do want to reiterate and emphasize that the District (and not Clark Construction) holds the contract with Midwest Wall and that the District made all of the color and material decisions.”

According to Leyko, “we expect all deadlines to be met for Whitehills and Pinecrest.”

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