Concrete used at new National Guard facility questioned

Construction has been halted on the $25 million National Guard Regional Training Institute and Barracks Facility in Pembroke due to concerns over alleged problems associated with the use of concrete mixed with fly ash.The concrete mixture led Gov. John Lynch on Wednesday to ask at an Executive Council meeting if the contractor, Wakefield, Mass.-based TLT Construction Corp., could be fired from the job.”If we were to fire them, what are the consequences?” Lynch asked an aide at the breakfast meeting of the council. “I’m disgusted.” Then with a bit more humor in his voice, he added, “Get Donald Trump and tell him he’s fired.”But TLT CEO Thomas V. Kostinden denied that there was a problem with the concrete.”That’s a bone of contention,” Kostinden told NHBR.He did say the company is “selectively removing and replacing” the concrete anyway to allow the project to proceed.”We fully intend to complete the project and provide a first-class building to the owners,” he said.TLT was low bidder on the project by nearly $3 million, and in September the Executive Council approved a deal to complete the training center for $24.6 million (with a contingency fee of about $1.7 million) by the end of June next year.However, at the Wednesday meeting, Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Linda Hodgdon told the governor and Executive Council that she was “not happy” with the construction, and ordered the concrete “ripped out.”The company did not do an independent inspection as required, Hodgdon said, and after one was eventually conducted, about 30 percent had to be redone.Michael Connor, director of the agency’s Bureau of Purchase and Property, added that use of fly ash was approved as a way for the building to win LEED certification.Fly ash is the residue from combustion — either in solid waste incinerators and coal plants — and contractors get credit toward LEED certification if they use it because they are recycling rather than using new materials to make concrete.Some environmentalists, however argue that the designation makes it easier to dispose of a hazardous material, thus making coal plants more economically feasible.Hodgdon and Connor, however, said that TLT didn’t follow proper procedures when mixing the fly ash with concrete.Lynch asked about penalties, and Connor said the state could impose damages per day.Kostinden disputed the allegation.This is not the only dispute the company has with the state over the quality of its work.The company is currently in mediation over alleged problems involving construction of the $7 million health sciences and humanities building, now called Judd Gregg Hall, at Nashua Community College.The building was supposed to open in August 2010 but was delayed for a time, forcing the college to postpone some classes that year.The current dispute has to do with metal siding.According to Wheeler, the angles are not square, resulting in water leakage. Kostinden agreed there was a problem, but it was the fault of the architect hired by the college.Wheeler was so frustrated with the company that he asked Hodgdon to put TLT on her agency’s no-bid list.TLT was by far the lowest bidder on the science building as well, prompting councilors to question whether it was always advisable to take the low bid. But that is the current law.”I had to take the low bid,” said Hodgdon. “I don’t have that flexibility.”The council discussed asking the Legislature to pass a law — long backed by the Associated General Contractors — that would give them that flexibility.Kostinden, however, said these kinds of disputes are normal.”We’ve been in business for 36 years, and on any particular project there are always challenges to address,” Kostinden told NHBR. “We’ve been successful dealing with these challenges.” — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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