BY JANE MEGGITT
ALLENTOWN – The Millstone Township and Upper Freehold Regional school districts now have two things in common.
Both school districts passed referendums for new middle schools in 2004. While Millstone’s project has forged ahead and is on target for a proposed opening next year, however, the Upper Freehold Regional School District’s (UFRSD) middle school has yet to break ground, as soil contamination and wastewater issues have delayed the process.
The two school districts also share something else at this time. The company overseeing construction management of the new Millstone middle school will do the same for the UFRSD.
UFRSD Business Administrator Viola Yosifon said that the Board of Education received 10 proposals and interviewed four candidates for construction management. She said the finalists were Bovis Lend Lease, Epic, Greyhawk and Hill International.
At the Nov. 15 meeting, the board decided to appoint Hill International, of Marlton, to the project with a 6-2 vote. Board member Jeanette Bressi and Steven Murphy voted against the appointment.
The total amount of the contract is $621,800, which includes preconstruction analysis and value engineering, a construction phase and a closeout phase, according to Yosifon.
Murphy explained his vote against the appointment. He said the board received 10 proposals in response to its advertisement for a construction manager. According to Murphy, three of the four who were chosen to give a presentation provided professional and comprehensive details on how they would oversee the construction of the middle school.
“Unfortunately, Hill’s presentation was generic in nature and did not address our specific project,” Murphy said. “At $621,800, Hill’s proposal was also the most costly, over $125,00 more than the lowest bid of the four presenters.”
According to Murphy, the board has budgeted $550,000 for construction management, including the renovation of the grammar school, which has been completed.
“The board has paid $161,500 to New Road Construction for overseeing the renovation of the elementary school and preliminary work on the middle school,” Murphy said. “This leaves about $388,500 in the budget for construction management services.”
According to Murphy, Hill International’s costs would exceed the construction management budget by more than $233,000.
Yosifon noted that Hill International was not the lowest bidder among the candidates. Because the board requested proposals, she explained, the district is not obligated to take the low bid.
“The board felt that Hill [International] was the best candidate for our project,” she said.
According to Yosifon, Hill International has provided construction management services for the last two projects in the Millstone school district.
“The firm has also been on many other school projects,” she said, “and they were highly recommended.”
When notified of the appointment, Millstone Township Superintendent of Schools Mary Anne Donahue said her district would like to congratulate Hill International on its appointment as UFRSD’s project manager.
“The Millstone Township Board of Education has worked with Hill International on their last two building projects,” Donahue said. “In the first project, which provided modifications and additions to the existing middle school, the district experienced the company’s professional dedication to the project and to the school district. The project was completed on time and within the designated budget.”
Donahue added that in its current construction of the new middle school, Hill International is once again representing the district in a highly professional manner.
“Hill’s construction manager for this project, Mr. Bill Skillman, and all of the staff from Hill International have worked hand in hand with district administration and the Board of Education to ensure that the project remains on schedule and within budget,” she said. “We are extremely pleased with the services and expertise provided by the entire company.”
Murphy said he understands that the Millstone Board of Education is very happy with Hill International, but that it is fiscally irresponsible to pay a premium for a service that three other firms would have provided at a substantially lower cost. He added that the district does not yet know the final cost of site remediation or the increase in construction costs due to the project’s delay.