Schools project out for tender

The Ministry of Education has
invited tenders for the procurement of construction management services for the
John Gray and Clifton Hunter High School projects.

Advertisements for the tenders,
which are being handled by the Central Tenders Committee, appear in today’s
Caymanian Compass newspaper.  Tender
submissions are due by noon on 19 March.

Minister of Education Rolston
Anglin said the construction manager would eventually oversee a group of
subcontractors that would complete the projects and that there would not be
another general contractor.

“It’s one or the other,” he said.
“You don’t hire a general contractor and a construction manager.”

Mr. Anglin said the general
contractor is expected to be hired approximately two weeks after the close of
the tendering process.

In the meantime, two subcontractors
– Caribbean Mechanical (High Schools 2008) Ltd. and Advanced Roofing – are
working on the job sites.  Mr. Anglin
said on-site architect representatives and government’s project team was
overseeing the work of the two subcontractors. 
He categorised the subcontractors’ work as “securing key equipment and
preventing wear and tear of existing structures.”

The tender advertisement for the
construction manager position stated that the estimated value of construction
activities to complete the two projects was in the range of $60 million to $70
million.

Mr. Anglin said approximately $70
million had been spent so far.

An amount of $17 million,
supposedly relating to change orders, remains in dispute with Tom Jones
International Ltd. the general contractor that walked off both job sites on 13
November, 2009.  The government
terminated the contracts, citing the walk off and other factors, on 2 December.

In late November, after the
government issued a one-week notice to terminate the contracts, Tom Jones filed
a civil suit against the government claiming $2.9 million in overdue payments.  Mr. Anglin said it was uncertain at this
point if the $17 million in dispute over the change orders would be settled in
court or through some other mediation process.

The limited work by the
subcontractors recommenced 26 January, more than 10 weeks after it was halted
by the Tom Jones walk off.

The problems will prevent the
schools from being completed in time for the beginning of the 2010/2011 school
year in September.  Mr. Anglin said he
had doubts the schools could even be completed by the end of the 2010/11 school
year.

“We believe the new campuses will
be ready for the 2011 academic year,” he said.

The two school projects have been
mired in problems from the beginning.

In early 2008, Tom Jones
International initially bid almost $25 million less than McAlpine Limited on
the John Gray project and was awarded the job for both schools by the Central
Tenders Committee.  After value engineering,
the bids on John Gray still differed by$16.6 million.

At least one local construction
company did not bid on the job partially because the tender documents called
for the projects to be completed by September 2009, a date the company did not
think was possible.  After the job was
awarded to Tom Jones, the deadline for completion was extended to September
2010 without retendering.

According to former Education
Minister Alden McLaughlin, more problems began on the project just before
Christmas 2008, when Tom Jones changed project managers.  He said a good relationship became
acrimonious after that time and that Tom Jones started issuing stop orders on a
frequent basis, “sometimes two in one week”.

Prior to walking off both job sites
for good on 13 November, Tom Jones walked off the John Gray site on 25
September, only to return to work 1 October. 
At that time, the Ministry of Education expressed hope that the projects
could still be completed in time for the 2010/2011 school year.  After the second walk-off, ministry officials
said that the schools could possibly be completed by the end of the 2010
calendar year.  Thursday’s statement by
Mr. Anglin was the first indication that would not happen.

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