I have to blame this travesty on Lou Magazzu – even after he is long gone the damage he did to this county continues to cost taxpayers. Backroom politics and ensuring that George Norcross got his due continue to attack taxpayer wallets. On Tuesday, the Freeholders approved another $142,000 for the contractor on this project.
The cost overrun on Cumberland County’s $2.49 million project to stabilize the former Vine Street School is nearing 11 percent because of hidden water damage to the building.
The county Board of Freeholders on Tuesday approved a request from the contractor for another $142,417. It is the fourth contract change order that the board has received.
My complaint is that this project was awarded in response to bids placed by competing companies. It is only proper that the taxpayers would expect these bids to be an accurate reflection of the actual price to complete the project as bid on. In my teens I worked with several local contractors, we did wallpaper, painting and roofing jobs. We bid on those jobs, and since I was the wallpaper expert I would work up the prices for those jobs. The price included labor, materials, travel and also a padding to cover the unexpected. That means that we purchased 10% wallpaper than needed to cover that erroneous cut. We padded the price to cover for the rotted timbers that we might discover when tearing down a roof. And if we made a mistake and found more damage than we expected, we ate the difference.
This is simply bad policy on the part of the Freeholders to give this contractor, or any contractor carte blanche to simply tack more charges onto the price of a contractual agreement. If this is commonplace, then why even go through the charade of having contractors bid on projects? At the very least, Cumberland County would be wise to black list this particular contractor. I will stop short of implying that they are guilty of fraud – but they did gamble that the project would be less involved than it turned out, and Cumberland County taxpayers lost.