Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 10, 2013

Palo Alto running out of patience with Mitchell Park Library delays

City announces intent to start default proceedings against contractor

by Gennady Sheyner

With the completion of Palo Alto's Mitchell Park Library and Community Center more than a year past due and the project's cost on an upswing, frustrated city officials have issued an ultimatum to its construction company: Get your act together now or you'll be replaced.

At close to $30 million, the project is by far the largest and most expensive component of the $76 million bond city voters approved in 2008. The library and the adjoining community center were supposed to be completed last year. According to the city's latest estimate, the project is now expected to be completed at the end of this year.

Palo Alto has already prepared itself for a legal battle against Flintco Pacific, the construction company working on the project, by retaining seven different consultants, including attorneys and engineers who will be tasked with evaluating what went wrong. And last week, the city notified Flintco that the company has until May 16 to submit its plans for fixing "defective work" and commencing work in areas where progress has been "unacceptably slow."

The letter from City Manager James Keene to Flintco CEO Tom Maxwell describes a construction process that has devolved into a comedy of errors, with work crews quitting or failing to show up on the job on a "regular basis." On a typical day, the letter states, the number of workers on the site falls "considerably short of what would be expected" and on days when crews are present, the company is not "adequately coordinating or supervising trades." Furthermore, much of the work has been defective, failing inspections from the Building Department and not complying with contract requirements.

Keene's May 2 letter informs Flintco that the city could likely issue a "default notice" to Flintco's surety, Zurich American Insurance Company.

City Attorney Molly Stump told the Weekly if Flintco doesn't meet the city's conditions in the next two weeks, it will be up to the surety to either bring Flintco into compliance or bring in another company to finish the job at the agreed-upon price.

While seeking a response from Flintco, the city has also reached out to another contractor to fix Flintco's errors should Flintco fail to do so. According to a report issued last month, Palo Alto has established a contract with Big D Builders, which has recently completed the remodeling of the Palo Alto Arts Center, to "correct errors and finish work when Flintco Pacific fails to do so."

The 56,000-square-foot library and community center is Palo Alto's largest municipal construction project in four decades. The two-building community center will include a large community room, a teen center, a cafe, a computer room and a game room.

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