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Malverne School Board Approves Bond Work Bids

Work expected to begin next week on middle and high school athletic facilities.

The Malverne Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday night to accept bids from two contractors to perform work on the athletic facilities at the middle and high schools, but not without some deliberation.

Board member Gina Genti had numerous questions for the assistant superintendent for district operations, Spiro Colaitis, regarding the plans for Proposition #2, part of that voters passed in November 2010.

She challenged his decision to opt out of hiring a construction manager (C.M.) to oversee this phase of the project, which includes reconstruction of school locker rooms, tennis courts, bleachers and athletic fields, and the installation of a turf field and press box.

"We didn't want to eliminate scope in the interest of hiring a construction manager," Colaitis said, explaining that the district chose to expand the bleachers at an additional cost of $50,000 that would not be possible if they hired a C.M., who would earn roughly $80,000 for the four-month project.

The upgrade to the bleachers was needed, according to Colaitis, because it will allow the district to host complete band, track and football competitions.

"If we're going to do this we have to be able to compete [with other districts]," Board President Patrick Coonan added.

Colaitis, citing his 30 years of experience in construction, said he felt comfortable not bringing on a C.M. because this part of the bond project is "technically simple." (He definitely wants one when the district moves on to Proposition #1, which includes major rennovations to both elementary school buildings.)

Plus, he said he was confident in the two contractors - Sigma Builders Group and The Landtek Group, Inc. - that the district selected among the few bids they received, having worked with one of them on a $35 million bond project he completed while working for the Freeport School District.

He explained that Landtek installs 90 percent of turf fields in the area including the three currently at Adelphi University, which Coonan, a dean at the college, said were done on-time, under budget and look phenomenal.

In the absence of a C.M., Colaitis would assume the role of overseeing the work, stating to the board, "I can handle this."

However, board member Karen Aker raised the concern of what would happpen if Colaitis, a Navy reservist, was called on another tour of duty while the project was underway.

"What if the government calls you as it's done in the past?" she asked.

Other board members and Superintendent James Hunderfund echoed this worry and came to the agreement that the district should hire a part-time person who would be educated about the project and prepared to work per diem if Colaitis is called to duty or takes a vacation during this time.

Colaitis mentioned that he could find someone for this job, but board member Danielle Hopkins requested that the school board be in charge of selecting this person from a pool of candidates the district will present to them.

Genti also pressed Colaitis on the price quotes the district received from the Requests for Proposals (RFP) that was sent out in January for Proposition #2. After crunching the numbers she found that in the end the overall project would come in under budget by $65,000.

"For a $4.2 million budget in this economy that seems heavy to me," she said.

Colaitis explained that the district didn't get many proposals from contractors, most likely because of its short time frame "scared off some bidders." They plan to start construction next week, complete the turf field in time for the latter part of football season and finish all the Proposition #2 work by Nov. 1.

"So we're paying a premium to get it done sooner," Genti said. "That's a lot of money for one week of football." (Hunderfund said it would be more than one week if everything goes according to plan. They are working on scheduling more home games in the second half of the season.)

Genti then suggested the district broaden the timeline at the expense of having some of the facilities done this fall, and go out to bid again in hopes of getting lower prices.

Hunderfund said that the savings might not be there because of inflationary conditions and Colaitis recommended the board move forward with the current plan instead. Coonan also pointed out that the project needed to begin soon if it was going to be completed this school year, because the synthetic turf needs time to cure before the weather gets cold, and the grass and irrigation systems need be installed before winter too.

Moments later they agreed to end talks and put the resolutions to a vote, passing the bids. Colaitis said he will send a letter of intent to award to the contractors tomorrow morning and a contract will be drafted that will be reviewed by the district's legal counsel before it comes to Coonan to sign.

Genti did have one final request though.

"When we do the [elementary school] buildings can you give us more information? A presentation?" she asked Colaitis, who agreed.

Hunderfund assured the board that a special meeting would be held when that time comes. "The next proposition is the core," he said.

Gerald Barr June 29, 2011 at 09:34 PM
With clear conflicts of interests that involve Mr. Colaitis’ and Mr. Coonan’s construction friends there is a blatant and arrogant disregard for ethics. They must believe that Malverne residents and taxpayers are just naïve and ignorant about principles. No Construction Manager? This is not a private home improvement project. This is an enormous public investment that demands critical oversight and unbiased management. Too many red flags and the urge to begin quickly are even more suspicious. This demands an investigation into the bidding process. Malverne can wait 1 more year for the upgrade if it’s going to ensure fairness in the bidding process, save the district precious dollars that could be used for so much that our district needs and gain public trust. The NYS Comptroller’s Office warned us about this group’s lack of integrity, especially its treatment of RFPs. The Malverne residents should be up in arms with these revelations – smells like Roslyn. No. Worse.
vincent June 30, 2011 at 02:43 AM
How can a school board vote to spend a significant amount of money with so many contract questions at the time that the matter is voted upon. Who is looking out for the taxpayers? What is the upcharge for rushing construction, have alternative cost saving options been explored, who opens bids for RFP's, how many were sent out? How is the selection process monitored. Typically a board has all the information they need to govern.
Gina Genti June 30, 2011 at 07:57 PM
vincent the residents of SD 12 did the voting last Fall and approved the project. The school board simply awarded the contract to the lowest bidder. All of your other questions could be answered by calling Spiro Colaitis at 887-6408. He is the Facilities Director.
Gerald Barr July 01, 2011 at 02:10 PM
Malverne’s Board approval of its bond work bids in the very least, disregarded public perception and at its worse employed cronyism and an ethics breach. The secrecy and covert contract approval process has left the district vulnerable to legal challenges and public misunderstanding. The corollary; a loss of public confidence and a damaged reputation because the board has failed to manage yet another conflict of interest. It seems as though this board has done everything to wound public confidence because it hasn’t taken adequate steps to avoid even the slightest appearance of impropriety (Coonan acknowledging familiarity with the work at his place of employ and Colaitis’ acknowledgement that he has worked with contract bid winners prior and is willing to be the CM). It begs the question; how deep do those acknowledgements go? Admirer? Affiliation? Friendship? Did Coonan disclose potential conflicts in a timely manner? If so, did he withdraw from decisions that present a potential conflict? How can Malverne taxpayers be certain that the bids were competitive, and the district is receiving fair value in the transaction considering that FEW bids were received with negligible discounts if any, in a depression environment – very difficult to believe. Were the winning bids adjudicated in an objective and informed manner? These and other questions would have been answered by a transparent and an ethical board in public discourse long before the approval of work bids.
Jan Kasal December 14, 2012 at 01:20 AM
If you follow the Malverne school district news on a regular basis you are aware that the board of education has recently become an agenda of its own, not leaving much room for any other business. Its conduct has been divisive, obscure, and poisonous. The current school board is a burden and embarrassment to the school district residents. If you are ready to dedicate some time to prepare for the upcoming May 2013 school budget and school board member elections and to change the course, please join others by contacting me at vevajanka@hotmail.com

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