high school subcontractor is responsible – Lowell Sun

LOWELL – City Manager Eileen Donoghue assured City Council on Tuesday that the contractor chosen for the HVAC and plumbing for the Lowell High School project is a responsible company and has been thoroughly vetted by all of the city’s advisors on the project.

Donoghue said owner-project manager Skanska, design and architecture firm Perkins Eastman, and construction manager Suffolk Construction have all collaborated with Harold Brothers Mechanical Inc. to previous projects, including schools, and “have a very good experience” with the contractor.

Donoghue spoke in response to a motion by Councilor Rita Mercier at the last council meeting asking Donoghue to “pay close attention to information about a bidder” about the project. Discussion at that meeting raised concerns that the company had not initially disclosed an employee death in March 2019 and a related OSHA listing.

“Our project team that evaluated the bids is confident it is appropriate, that the company in question has not been identified as negligent in connection with this death, although it is tragic,” said Donoghue. “I appreciate the information that comes out and we take it seriously and we look at everything. But we do have trusted consultants whose job it is to do this and they have now said not once or twice, but three or four times: this is an appropriate selection. “

In a Dec. 31 letter accompanying Donoghue’s motion response, Patrick Harold, president of Harold Bros., said the company initially did not disclose the death due to the employee’s pre-existing condition and because he was performing warranty work to resolve a leak. to repair. then work on an ongoing construction project, and decided to change the answer and provide additional information “with an abundance of caution”.

According to Harold Bros. Russell MacPherson suffered a heart attack caused by his chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, while repairing a boiler leak on March 7, 2019. event, which it felt was unrelated to the work environment. “

According to an OSHA accident report, MacPherson experienced respiratory distress due to his COPD, “aggravated by inhalation of propylene glycol aerosols and possible thermal burns from pressurized hot water,” resulting in his death. Information shared by The Foundation for Fair Contracting of Massachusetts showed that the insurer ultimately awarded the survivor benefits to MacPherson’s widow.

Mercier thanked Donoghue for her response, but said she remains concerned about the “gross omission” of information – which led to two other communities previously rejecting the company’s bids – and a significant difference in the bids between the two contractors. .

Donoghue noted in her memo to city council that Harold Bros. the lowest bidder was on both the HVAC and plumbing components at a combined cost of $ 10.57 million.

“I just have the women’s intuition that this company has a $ 10 million discount – and who wouldn’t want to save money,” Mercier said. “I just hope the red flag that I think has just gone up isn’t that this company is going to cut corners because of the $ 10 million. That’s all I’m asking is they be watched very carefully. “

“We have a very strict safety plan and someone is always on hand, including a full-time safety officer who will conduct daily on-site inspections – health, safety, welfare,” said Donoghue. “That’s all part of our process, so no one will allow us to take turns or do anything in that direction.”

Councilor John Drinkwater said he understands that occupations like construction and plumbing can be dangerous jobs and that “accidents can and do happen,” but it was the omission of details about the employee’s death that “set alarm bells” for him.

He said it must be acknowledged that the worker who died, who was a local person, did not simply turn a bolt and have a heart attack, and that there was boiling water and steam infused with chemicals that contributed to the death.

“I don’t think an accident like that is necessarily a disqualifying event for a contractor, but I think that when continuously the information is not provided initially and then information is provided and it doesn’t really represent the totality of what is there. happened, I think it calls into question the overall fairness of the offer, ”said Drinkwater.

Donoghue said the consultants made it clear that Harold Bros. had changed the information before making a bid and that although OSHA cited the company in the death, there was no acknowledgment or finding of negligence or liability.

She said the advisers had sought advice from the attorney general’s office before deciding that Harold Bros. would be in effect and that all vetting took place before any offer from the company was accepted.

“Our condolences and condolences to the Lord, and I agree with you who lost his life,” said Donoghue. “But the difference is that there was no finding that that loss of life was a direct result of the company’s negligence or was the direct result of security breaches by the company, and that’s very important.”

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