Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Is the EASD's Love Affair with D'uy Engineering Coming To An End?

Posted by: Noel Jones

One thing that remained unclear during the Easton Area School District budget meetings earlier this year, is why D'uy Engineering seems to have such a sweetheart relationship with the school district. Somehow, Henry Guarriello seems to be on retainer with the EASD to manage all RFPs that go out to bid. Among those invited to bid is--you guessed it--D'Huy Engineering. D'Huy tends to win the bids now and then. 

During the budget meetings this year, D'Huy presented the usual 3-tier scenario for repairs of the high school swimming pool--among them, installing insulation that was never installed in the first place (taxpayers have been paying to heat that huge room for years while all that money leaked out a ceiling with no insulation). D'Huy's proposal called for $800K in only basic repairs, and almost $2 million to fix everything, as outlined in Tony Rhodin's opinion article in the Express Times back in February. Taxpayers screamed.

In Colin McEvoy's article in the Express Times, it appears that love may be on the rocks. D'Huy failed to install the handicapped ramps for March Elementary school at the correct angle to meet state requirements, they have to be redone, and the EASD is going to sue D'Huy so that they will pay for their mistake. D'Huy thinks the taxpayers should pay. What's D'Huy's excuse? They say the state changed their rules in the middle of the project.

According to the article, no one as of yet has determined whether or not this is true. If anyone knows the answer, please post a comment here.


Anonymous said...

Same deal in Nazland. And don't think this little misstep will matter. They'll have a public spat for the benefit of anyone looking, then be right back holding hands at the trough.

It is, as it was, as it always will be with the connected.

carinne said...

If it is in fact true that the state “changed the rules” regarding the ramps, then wouldn’t the ramps be “grandfathered in” if contracts were signed and work completed? No matter what the answer I feel that the tax payer is certainly not the responsible party to pay for it.
Also, in the beginning of this year a board member requested that D’Huy/ Henry produce documentation (proof of contract/ current ramp approval from the city or state) regarding the ramps at a future school board meeting, and he failed to do so by June. I would think that after 5 or 6 months of waiting for a piece of paper the board would conclude that D’Huy is not an efficient contractor.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12:46--- ok, so why/ what's the connection?

Jen H. said...

Hi again Noel - Since your email brought me to this page, I see this commentary on the March ramp matter and need to make a correction. D'Huy is not the co. that designed/poured the concrete ramps. They are the co. who oversees those responsible for the design and construction and who reports on progress, issues etc. to the Board/district. I was on vacation last week and could not attend the meeting and (no offense to the reporters), would prefer to watch the actual meeting recording to comment on what transpired, but if D'Huy's name was reported as having constructed the ramps, that is incorrect.

noel jones said...

Hi Jen,

You can click on the link for the Colin McEvoy's article in this post--it's a little confusing. Henry Guarriello is named as the project manager and refers to "the contractor" in the third person, but then later in the article it says that the board voted 4-3 to pay D'Huy, but without a broader majority, required by law, the case goes to suit.

Dennis R. Lieb said...

This is a confusing issue and the E-T article doesn't make it any clearer. They mention early on that the "Township" informed the district that ramps were wrong and needed to be changed, but March School is in Easton's College Hill neighborhood - not a township. This is muddied further by the story's location header, which says Forks Twsp. but that is only where the meeting was held - not the school's location. I haven't followed this story at all but it would seem that ramp inclines are controlled by the American's with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is a Federal regulation. The state (PennDOT)wouldn't seem to be capable of changing Federal law or imposing it on local districts.

One thing that I do know happened recently is a change in state procedure that now requires new ADA ramps be installed at any intersection where the street is touched for construction or other modifications like traffic signal alterations or replacement. This has caused great distress around the city as it upsets the budget and timing of many proposed improvements to pedestrian safety, which become prohibitive under the new rules.

If PennDOT is requiring these procedural changes for the timing of ramp work (rather than actually making changes to the ADA design requirements) then it is possible that the city was trying to get ahead of the curve by "encouraging" the district to replace them during March School renovations so the city wouldn't need to foot the bill later, even though the renovation work wasn't technically touching the street.

It would be a helpful notion if someone spoke to Dave Hopkins; Easton Director of Public Works about exactly what the city told the contractor about the ramp requirements. He is in charge of streets and other infrastructure in the city. Did Easton accurately represent the situation to the district or perhaps insinuate certain things they'd like to see happen with the ramps as a way to get the improvements covered now, under the district's renovation budget for the school, rather than wait and supply city money for them later? In either case, we would have paid for them eventually. It'd still be nice to know anyway.

In any event, it sounds like D'Huy was construction manager overseeing whatever contractor was on the project and they should be on top of state regs and procedures regardless of what they were or when they changed. The Board isn't there to micromanage construction.


noel jones said...

A message from Marty Jones, who cannot post a comment from his work computer:

"Hi Noel,

If memory serves me the problem with these ramps is that they are 1/10 of a degree too steep. Is this correct? are there any other issues? If this is true I will refer back to the list of questions I e-mailed Jen H. awhile back. Who measured the angle? What device did they use? was it properly calibrated? Was the device used specified in the requirements? What is the tolerence set forth in the plans? Is the angle within the tolerence? Maybe there are other issues, but this angle thing was brought up in a school board meeting. Joe Kish failed to respond when fellow boardmember Jen H. forwarded these questions to him. Maybe you can get these questions answered. Thanks, Marty"

Would anyone with more knowledge/experience than myself in construction like to respond to Marty's questions?

Dennis R. Lieb said...

I can't respond to the specific question but I know for a fact that the city hasn't repainted yellow curb markings in a very long time because PennDOT regs require the use of a tape measure calibrated by the state. We don't have one. How far off a tape measure could possibly be miscalibrated seems totally academic to me...we are talking about fractions of an inch in relation to curb markings measured in tens of feet.

A miscalibration issue - much more critical in setting ramp slopes - seems quite possible under this scenario.