Problems Again Beset Firehouse Repair

Article excerpt

Byline: Matthew Cella, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The renovation of a historic firehouse at 4300 Wisconsin Ave. NW that was begun in June 2002 and scheduled to be completed two months ago is not expected to be complete before spring.

The project, which was already rebid once after the first contractor was fired by the city in July 2003, also has been riddled with problems.

The firehouse is one of several capital projects that have posed problems for the District, including the Washington Convention Center, which had a $650 million budget and was completed in 2003 at a cost of $834 million.

Field reports obtained by The Washington Times show that an independent inspector hired by the District has cited the contractor, Garcete Construction Co. Inc., 81 times for unsafe conditions, substandard workmanship and failures to obtain construction permits.

In a letter dated Sept. 9, city contracting officer Karen Hester warns the contracting company that the District is "very concerned" that the company will fail to meet the Oct. 20 completion deadline. She noted that as of a July 26 progress meeting, the job was 48 percent complete.

The job originally was supposed to be completed Aug. 12, but city officials and Garcete Construction negotiated a 69-day extension to Oct. 20.

According to a field report filed on Oct. 4, the job was still only 59 percent complete.

Dave Aggarwal, the project manager, disputed that estimate.

"Right now, it's about 75 percent done," he said, adding that the company has worked with the District to correct the problems detailed in the rejection notices.

Additional documents show that city officials were satisfied that deficiencies cited in 37 of the 83 notices had been corrected, while 45 remained outstanding. The status of one could not be determined.

Mr. Aggarwal could not say when the project would be complete, saying that there are "still a couple of issues" that have to be resolved. …