Contractors to be evaluated on 5-point scale for better control of school projects

December 19, 1993|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Staff Writer

The Harford school board unanimously approved a system last week for grading contractors, prequalifying potential bidders with a point system that the school system's supervisor of construction says will make it easier to control school construction projects.

The procedure will "put more teeth in it, protect us better and put us in control," said Joseph P. Licata.

The process is designed to identify contractors best suited for school construction, rating them on a five-point scale based on experience, financial background, composition of the building team, safety record and equipment, Mr. Licata said.

"It will be a complete documentation," he said.

Mr. Licata said the new evaluation was not tied to delays this year in opening Fallston Middle School, which caused students to miss the first two weeks of school, and the work stoppage at Church Creek Elementary in Belcamp, already delayed by a year.

Construction at Church Creek has been back in operation for about month since H. A. Harris Co. took over the project, said Donald R. Morrison, school spokesman. A June completion date is expected.

Work at the school had come to a halt in early September when the contractor, Peter J. Scarpulla Inc., could not continue because of financial difficulties.

Those delays, however, prompted an October workshop in which the school board studied ways for revising the criteria in awarding construction and renovation contracts.

"It was time to look at the total capital program [for schools], which is about $60 million," Mr. Licata said.

At the meeting on Monday, the board approved a Feb. 1 start date for the more stringent prequalification process.

XTC Mr. Licata said the previous procedure wasn't flawed but was too vague. For instance, he said, in a hypothetical case, a prospective contractor could claim to have built 10 schools, when, in actuality, those schools could have been completed by employees who had since left the firm.

Mr. Licata said the school system plans to advertise the new requirements in local papers in the next three weeks to give contractors time to comply.

Although no new schools will be built in the county next year, there are a number of additions and renovations planned, depending on funding approval, Mr. Licata said. A $3.6 million addition at C. Milton Wright High School is proposed, as well as renovations to existing elementary schools that would be in the $2.3 million range.

In other action at Monday's meeting, the school board delayed a decision about adding a one-half credit in geography as a graduation requirement. Several board members, while agreeing on the importance of the subject, said they were concerned about adding another requirement and wanted more time to discuss its ramifications.

Board member Thomas D. Hess said he was worried about the "squeeze factor."

"Every time we say [a student] must take something else, it squeezes out something else a student might take," he said.

Current graduation requirements mean that the Class of '97 must have 21 credits, although students can earn 28 credits in the four years. Nineteen of the 21 credits are state and locally mandated, allowing a minimum of two elective choices.

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