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Two More Years of Diggs

By Jodie Mozdzer

April 20, 2009

The Hartford School Building Committee voted today to extend its contract with Diggs Construction LLC for two years and no more than $4 million.

That should give the project management company enough time and money to finish up the school construction projects it has started in the city, while the city solicits bids for any future projects.

But a couple committee members unsuccessfully fought today for a shorter contract extension, and to include the existing construction projects in the request for proposal the committee is developing now.

Member Elizabeth Brad Noel introduced a motion that would extend Diggs' contract for only six months.

"I thought a six-month time table was sufficient time to put together an RFP process so we could look for a project manager for existing and new school projects," said committee member Jim Boucher, who was the only other person to support the motion.

Noel voted against the two-year contract, while Boucher abstained from that vote.

"I could not support two years at this point," said Boucher, who said he wants a competitive bidding process.

"Of course Diggs would be eligible to apply, but it would have been competitive," Boucher said.

The committee discussed the contract last month, when members agreed to bid out future school projects, but had postponed a vote on the contract extension until Monday. Diggs' contract was set to expire on April 30.

Diggs has been in the news a lot lately (read about it here, here, and in the text below, from a March 19 article).



Hartford could soon end its relationship with Diggs Construction LLC, the project manager overseeing the city's ambitious school construction project.

The city's school building committee voted Monday to establish a selection committee and to send out a request for proposals for a project management company to work on future school construction projects. The board of education recently approved a 10-year school building plan that outlines about $1 billion in projects.

Members of the building committee said the move wasn't a reflection on Diggs' service. But they said that after seven years with Diggs managing the construction project, it was only fair to taxpayers to look into other options.

"For me, it's just a policy issue," said Mayor Eddie A. Perez, a member of the committee. "We're finishing the work that we've got on the table, bidding the whole service out and seeing what happens."

In his last act as chairman of the building committee, Perez introduced a separate resolution to amend Diggs' current contract - set to expire April 30 - to allow the company to complete eight projects it has already started.

The resolution to extend the contract was postponed after committee member Elizabeth Brad Noel raised concerns that the two items were presented to the committee only minutes before the meeting began. Noel abstained from the vote to create a selection committee.

"I don't think there is anything wrong with this at all," Noel said. "But I'm concerned. I just want to express that."

If the school building committee approves the contract amendment, Diggs could continue working until April 30, 2011. The motion caps payments to Diggs during that time at $4 million.

Diggs' first contract, signed in 2002, was for four years and $6.2 million. The contract has been amended four times, the latest time in 2006, when it was extended for three years. In each of the four amendments, the total contract price increased incrementally, to the current $19.6 million.

The number of school building projects that Diggs oversaw also increased, from five to 12.

Reprinted with permission of the CityLine blog of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the CityLine at http://blogs.courant.com/cityline/ and the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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