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Laborers' Union representative says 'no' to Barr Inc.

The design for the new Senior Center on Main Street, which is twice as large as the existing center. Reminder Publications submitted photo
Agawam mayor defends choice of contractor for new Senior Center

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM A representative from the Laborers' International Union of North America is circulating an over 150-page packet of legal documents, newspaper articles and other documents from officials in over 10 cities that have cited problems with the construction of their facilities by Barr Inc.

Barr Inc., of Putnam, Conn., provided the lowest bid for the construction of the new Senior Center on Main Street and was therefore awarded the contract. Building of the new facility is scheduled to begin on Sept. 26, and the project is slated for completion in the next 18 to 19 months, Richard Cohen, mayor of Agawam said.

Multiple documents, however, detail problems other communities have faced on their projects supervised by Barr Inc.

When asked about the distributed information John Darigan, president of Barr Inc., told Reminder Publications,"There is no validity to the packet. The town and architect did their due diligence and reviewed our background and found that we were an upstanding contractor. We are dedicated and going to give the town of Agawam a beautiful Senior Center."

Within the packet a document from the law firm representing the Town of Dartmouth states the problems throughout the course of the renovations of the Dartmouth Police Station by Barr Inc.

The document, dated Jan. 13, 2006 stated, "throughout the course of its performance, Barr has constructively abandoned its obligations by understaffing its crew, engaging in conflicts with subcontractors, delaying its performance, and failing to perform certain responsibilities."

The document goes on to state, "Barr was required to complete its performance by July 18, 2005, yet the building remains under construction more than seven months later."

Michael Gagne, Dartmouth Town Administrator said, "There was certainly an issue of delay of schedule and whom that was attributed to. We had issues that were at an impasse on the project and we had a couple of hearings with the American Arbitration Association and in fact negotiated an agreed upon settlement."

Gagne added that the renovations have been completed on the Police Station.

Steven Ouellette, chairman of the Construction Committee for the Haddam, Conn., Fire Department said, "They were significantly behind schedule. Their subs seemed to have prior issues with Barr. The masonry sub working for Barr showed up on the first day and refused to move forward with work until getting paid for the last job."

Ouellette said that the fire station was completed more than six months overdue and the roof has always leaked during heavy rain.

"In my opinion a brand new building shouldn't leak at all," he added.

When asked about the packet and reputation of Barr Inc., Cohen said, "Reinhardt Associates [the architectural firm hired for the new Senior Center] did an extremely thorough investigation of Barr. Everything came back 100 percent."

Cohen added, "under the Procurement Laws under the Commonwealth of Massachusetts you must go to the lowest bidder unless you can justify without a doubt bypassing the low bidder. The recommendation from our architect was that Barr met all of the qualifications to be selected."

"But we also looked into the allegations by that individual [from the Laborers' International Union of North America] and found there was no justification in not awarding it to them," Cohen said.

Douglas Goodman, architect for the new Senior Center of Reinhardt Associates, Inc., said they contacted the Division of Capital Asset Management (DECAM) and Barr Inc., had a rating of 80 out of 100.

Once public projects are completed, Goodman explained, the owner and architect must submit an evaluation to DECAM with evaluations of multiple categories and then provide an overall score out of 100.

When asked about the documents within the packet from the Laborers' International Union of North America, Goodman said, "We did contact some of the people that were named or listed in that packet and some of them were not happy with Barr and all I can say is in some cases they get into a legal dispute and anybody that gets into a legal dispute is not going to give anybody a good boost."

He added, "I don't think I've ever done a job where there wasn't something negative."

When asked about reason for his distribution of the packet, Joseph Saracino, lead organizer for the Laborers' International Union of North America, said, "They are an unscrupulous contractor and they don't live up to and follow the rules that good contractors do. We want to put it in the packet so that people like Reinhardt and Cohen can't say it isn't valid."

Saracino said he has been working on the collection of the documents for the past two years and filing FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests in some cases to obtain documents.

When asked if Barr Inc.'s non-union status had anything to do with his motivations to get this information to Cohen, he said no. He added that he went to Cohen after reviewing the bids for the new Senior Center, because he wanted to tell the mayor that "Barr Inc., was the only company not adhering to the standards of the industry. We make it our job to know when there is an unscrupulous contractor out there."

He said there were other bidders that were also non-union that he had no problems with getting the contract.