UConn 2000 Contractor Terminated
February 14, 2000
UConn officials have terminated their contract with HRH Atlas Construction, almost two years to the day since the firm broke ground on a new biological sciences building.
"The UConn 2000 program is an unprecedented success that has literally transformed the University," Larry Schilling, University architect, said last week. "In the five years since its inception, we have worked cooperatively and successfully with hundreds of contractors, including more than 30 general contractors, who together have completed more than 100 projects.
"Terminating a contract is something we would do only as a last recourse," he added. "But when the legislature authorized the UConn 2000 program in 1995, we became accountable to the legislature and the taxpayers of Connecticut to do everything in our power to ensure that these jobs are done on time, on budget, and to the standards the state's citizens would expect. HRH/Atlas was not able to meet those standards."
The building, expected to cost about $34 million, is tucked between the Edward V. Gant Science Complex and the Torrey Life Sciences Building, on North Eagleville Road. It was scheduled for completion by August 1999, Schilling said. However, today, the building is only 70 percent complete. Two weeks ago, there were fewer than a dozen workers at the site during a period of construction when there should have been more than 200.
Schilling said all of the more than 30 subcontractors hired by HRH Atlas have left the job during the past month, saying Atlas, the project's general contractor, has not paid their workers.
The termination of the contract was effective Feb. 4. At the close of business that day, UConn officials padlocked gates leading to the construction site.
Schilling said the action should not result in any extra costs for the University. As with all UConn 2000 projects, the University carries a payment and performance bond, he said. The payment bond guarantees all contractors and subcontractors will be paid for their work, and the performance bond, which is purchased by the general contractor, guarantees the job will be completed. Schilling said he is working with executives at Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., the firm that holds the performance bond, to hire a new general contractor as soon as possible. If a new contractor can be hired soon, and the subcontractors return promptly, the building can be completed by November.
Schilling said he and other University officials have been working with HRH Atlas executives and top officials of their parent company almost since the day the project began, expressing concerns first with the project team the company put in charge of the project and, later, with a series of problems that cropped up. All of UConn's complaints were met with promises, he said, but the company never followed through with the agreements. Finally, he said, when subcontractors began leaving, termination became the only option.
The action is the first time since UConn 2000 began in 1995 that a contractor has been ordered off a job site. Only one other job - construction of the new downtown Stamford campus - has come in late, and that project was delayed largely because of the bankruptcy of the general contractor. Another project, the new South Campus residence halls, was completed despite several disagreements between UConn and the contractor, Suffolk Construction Co., but those issues are essentially settled, and will be finalized soon.
Schilling said he and other officials have worked hard to keep HRH Atlas on the job, as evidenced by an inches thick file of correspondence in his office. After receiving the termination notice several weeks ago, Atlas officials requested the complaints be brought to mediation but, Schilling said, after several years of effort and broken promises, he could no longer trust the firm to live up to its promises. Mediation would delay the project for months, and he was not sure any subcontractor would return to work with Atlas still in charge.
HRH Atlas, Schilling said, also was the general contractor for the Connecticut Ice Arena and the Agricultural Biotechnology Building, both of which have been completed.