Municipal building to open a year behind schedule

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:50

    SPARTA-Crews are expected to return to work this week on the new municipal building following discussions among the township, contractor and bonding company. A spokesperson for Horizon Contracting of Union County, which is managing the $5.2 million project, said the construction crews "should be back by the end of the week and the site will be fully operational." Sparta Township Manager Henry Underhill said talks were held with Atlantic Mutual Insurance on the status of the project, which has undergone a series of setbacks since work commenced more than a year ago. The building had been scheduled for completion in November 2004. Underhill said a fall completion is now anticipated. "The bonding company has given a guarantee the work will get done," said Underhill. "This week or next, we should see a flurry of activity. It's just been very slow with the work." The slow pace of the construction was due in part to internal problems at Horizon Contracting. Underhill said the contractor is within budget, but has had trouble paying vendors and coordinating schedules with trade workers. "The work would move in spurts," he said. "Something would get done, and something would slow down. There was nothing in their background to show they didn't have the expertise." Part of the reorganization included the dismissal of the site's project manager by Horizon Contracting. According to township officials, the contractor's problems do not present any liability for the municipality. Anthony Imbimbo, the township purchasing agent, said the bonding company is required by the state to insure that a project will be completed "one way or another." "We would have done nothing without one," he said. Scott Beffert, a spokesperson for Atlantic Mutual, the bonding company, declined comment on discussions with Horizon Contracting. Delays in construction forced township employees to work in the existing 100-year-old building through the winter and endure a faulty heating system, leaking roof when it rained, termites, and overcrowding. Officials with Horizon Contracting said weather and its effects on delivering materials had been a major factor for falling behind schedule. In October and November, the construction site was picketing by union tradesmen over Horizon's use of non-union members on the project. When completed, Underhill said, the new 35,000 square-foot municipal building will be twice the size of the current facility and will feature a new security system, a state-of-the-art police department, an expanded the courtroom with capacity to seat 100, and offer residents a "one-stop shopping" for municipal services.