Contractor Sues Burlington School District Over High School Demolition Bid

A contractor suing the school system lost its bid to demolish Burlington High School. On Friday, the Massachusetts company’s legal representatives claimed in court that the district had chosen the winning offer improperly.

Early in January, American Environmental filed a complaint, alleging that the district’s bid specifications were not followed in choosing the demolition contractor EnviroVantage from New Hampshire.

At the hearing on Friday in Chittenden County Superior Civil Court in Burlington, the company’s attorneys asked for a preliminary injunction. The school district would be required to end its agreement with EnviroVantage, which won the bid to demolish and clean up the high school site’s environment if the injunction were granted.

An injunction would postpone the school’s building, according to attorneys and an environmental expert for the school district who testified in court.

In this case, the public interest should be considered, according to William Ellis, a district lawyer. The construction of a new high school is in the community’s best interest. If this situation persists and the injunction is upheld, the goal of having the school open by August 2025 will be impossible.

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In a hearing that lasted over two hours on Friday, Judge Helen Toor heard arguments from both sides. I recognize there is a time rush, Toor said, adding that she would make a decision “as quickly as feasible.”

The district allegedly violated Vermont law by failing to properly “consider all bids submitted by prequalified bidders” as required by (state law) and failing to award the Project contract “to the lowest responsible bid conforming to specifications,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed on January 5 by Darren Misenko, an attorney for American Environmental.

The lawsuit claims that the school system requested qualifications from demolition contractors for the high school project in September 2022. The requirement that bidders have knowledge in “hazardous materials abatement” in large buildings was one of the requirements in the request, and bidders were asked to present five project examples.

American Environmental’s legal team contended on Friday that EnviroVantage had only mentioned four, and none of them satisfied the project’s requirements, which included prior work with a comparable budget and scope.

EnviroVantage and American Environmental were the two lowest bidders, with bids of $11.4 million and $11.7 million, respectively, according to Misenko’s injunction motion.

Additionally, the attorney said in his request that EnviroVantage is unqualified to carry out the work in a project that includes “the remediation and abatement of hazardous contaminants at a high school,” so awarding the contract to the company would not “serve the best interests of the public.” On Friday afternoon, EnviroVantage could not be reached for comment right away.

Contractor Sues Burlington School District Over High School Demolition Bid

The majority of the oral arguments for his client were delivered on Friday by Michael Sams, another attorney for American Environmental. He cited a state regulation that comes into effect when a school building project costs more than $500,000. It states that “one of the three lowest responsible bids adhering to requirements shall be awarded” for construction contracts.

Sams contended that the district’s chosen bid did not comply with these requirements and emphasized the significance of the “must” and the “conforming to specifications” in that law.

A school board, however, “must have the right to reject any or all bids,” according to the same state legislation. Ellis used this in his arguments and claimed that the board viewed EnviroVantage’s alleged lack of qualifications as “informalities.”

Throughout the hearing, Toor displayed skepticism of that claim. She replied, “But how could these qualify as information? “I think these are quite substantial,”

To begin construction on its $190 million initiative to construct a new high school, the school district plans to demolish the Institute Road site this month. Regarding chemical contamination at the site, the community brought its complaint against Monsanto to U.S. District Court.

When Monsanto attorneys filed a motion to suspend demolition so that they could investigate the buildings, the district’s construction schedule was momentarily put on hold during that legal dispute. Both sides’ attorneys agreed that demolition might start later this month.

Since the discovery of pollution from polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, a dangerous class of chemicals used until the 1970s and frequently discovered in window caulking, glazing, and other building materials, Burlington High School has been shuttered.

$21 million is budgeted for demolition and remediation in the district’s construction cost estimates. The district aspires to receive financial assistance for those expenses and the building’s construction if its lawsuit against Monsanto is successful. If you want more information like this, visit our The Express.

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