YORK – “I want them done, I want them out of here, I want them gone.”
Those were the words Commissioner Kurt Bulgrin strongly said during Tuesday’s meeting of the York County Commissioners, regarding Lacey Construction which is the contractor for the courthouse expansion/renovation project.
The conversation was quite intense, particularly when the commissioners talked about the recent discovery that no insulation had been installed – in the entire addition – before the drywall had been done.
“I do not want them here anymore, I want this job done,” Bulgrin said. “And they should be here in person, begging the York County taxpayers for forgiveness for screwing them over.”
The comments made by Bulgrin followed a long and detailed conversation among the county board members about a list of change orders presented to them by Lacey.
Commissioner Randy Obermier, who sits on the project committee with Commissioner Bill Bamesberger, went through the list of change orders which already bore signatures from Lacey Construction and the project’s architectural company, Berggren Architects.
The first change order was a good thing, Obermier said, noting that this one was actually in the county’s favor as they would be getting a credit of $4,600.
The next change order had to do with changing some doors (from the original plan) in the break room in the new communications center. This will cost the county an extra $723 – and the contractors asked for the allowance of an extra day on their contract for this project.
The third change order will cost the county an extra $23,086. This pertains to a stairway used as a fire escape from the basement to the main floor. This was discussed months ago, as the state fire marshal required some changes. The contractor also asked for an additional 10 days on their contract in order to make this happen.
The fourth change order will cost the county an extra $5,412 in order for more data ports to be installed in the communications center. This came about after conversations with Seward County officials led them to realize the neighboring county hadn’t installed enough in their new communications center. The commissioners said they appreciated that information, in order to avoid future difficulties like Seward officials had experienced.
The fifth change order garnered the most conversation among the county board members – although it will cost the county no extra money and no one asked for extra time on the building contract.
“This is not a public secret, it never was a secret from the public,” Commissioner Obermier said. “It was discovered last week that the drywall in the building was installed without the insulation being placed first.”
He said Berggrens discovered the major mistake and at first thought it only pertained to the walls in the basement.
“After a camera was used, we found that no insulation had been used in the upstairs of the addition either,” said Commissioner Obermier.
He added that he and Commissioner Bamesberger initially told the contractor and the architect that they wanted all the drywall removed, the insulation then done, and then another round of drywall after the insulation had been installed properly – and not at the county’s cost. He said both the contractor and architectural company were against that idea.
“They came up with a blow-in insulation which the architect found acceptable and it will have a warranty, in writing, for the next 10 years,” Commissioner Obermier said.
How did such a mistake happen, the other commissioners asked.
“They couldn’t give us a reason why or how it happened,” Obermier said. “The insulation is done now, it’s a good thing it was caught. It has been handled and the insulation we have now is better than what we would have had. But as far as how or why it happened, no one has any idea.”
“How on earth can you drywall over no insulation?” asked Commissioner Paul Buller.
“I don’t know,” Obermier said. “I was told there was no project manager here that week. There was just no good answer for how this happened.”
“How much space are we talking, how much wall space?” asked Commissioner Bulgrin.
“All of it,” Obermier responded. “All the walls, top floor and bottom.”
“OK, when it comes to the first change order that’s a no brainer because we get a credit,” Bulgrin said. “But the others – is Lacey Construction that incompetent? They didn’t comply with the specs (regarding the second change order). We don’t need to do business with Berggren or Lacey ever again and they should be here at this meeting, right now, here in person, because they screwed this county over.”
No one from Lacey or Berggrens was present for this meeting.
“Regarding this drywall situation, that’s just incompetency for both Berggrens and Lacey Construction,” Bulgrin said.
“I agree, but Berggrens did catch it,” Obermier said.
“I don’t think we can blame Berggrens for this,” said Commissioner Bamesberger. “And we are on the third foreman for the contractor.”
“Well, Berggrens recommended Lacey for this job, so it falls back on them too,” Bulgrin said.
“How long has everyone known about the stairway issue?” asked Commissioner Chairman Jack Sikes.
Obermier reiterated that it has been months since they have known about the compliance issues raised by the fire marshal’s office.
“They have known about it for months and now they want an extension of time because they haven’t done anything with it yet?” asked Sikes. “Why haven’t they done anything about these things they knew about – and now they want to ask for more time and we already gave them more time earlier because of the bad weather last winter.”
He also mentioned that the veterans’ memorial in front of the courthouse had been damaged during the construction process and it still is lying on the ground outside. Bamesberger said the memorial will be sent to a reputable company that specializes in that type of restoration work, it will be fixed and it will be done at the contractor’s expense.
“Why are they waiting until the end for all of this?” Sikes asked. “We gave them an extra 14 days, earlier this year, and now they are asking for another 11.”
“I don’t want to give them any more time,” Bulgrin said. “No more days. And they can come to this board personally to explain to us why they need it.”
“If we say no to this, it could lead to arbitration and end up in front of a judge,” Commissioner Obermier said, referring to the terms of the contract. “It isn’t as easy as us just saying no. We can certainly say no, but that’s the reality.”
“We could table it until they come here to talk to us,” said Commissioner Buller.
“We need to move on and get this thing done,” Bamesberger said.
“I will approve the change orders but without an increase of days on their contract,” Bulgrin said. “We already gave them an earlier 14-day extension.”
“This project was initially supposed to be done by Nov. 15,” Sikes said.
“They need to get it done, get the lead out,” Buller said.
“I want it done and I want them out of here,” Bulgrin said. “This drywall thing blows my mind.”
“I agree,” Obermier said. “Believe me, no one wants this project done more than we do” (referring to himself and Bamesberger).
“And I’m not upset with you guys,” Bulgrin said to Obermier and Bamesberger. “You guys have spent so much time and effort on this project and you guys are really taking the brunt of it.”
“On another change order, they wanted an extra five more days and we said no,” Obermier said.
“Not all our meetings have been pleasant,” Bamesberger added.
Bulgrin made a motion to allow the change orders but not give the contractor any extra time toward completion. It was seconded by Buller. Bamesberger, Obermier and Sikes voted against the motion and it failed.
Obermier then made a motion to accept the change orders as they were presented, along with time extensions. He, Bamesberger and Sikes voted in favor of that motion, with Bulgrin and Buller voting against it. The change orders were ultimately approved.