The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

October 15, 2012

New library 5 months overdue; contractors face $180G penalty

By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item

— SELINSGROVE — Builders of the structure that will house Selinsgrove borough offices and the new Rudy Gelnett Memorial Library when it opens Nov. 13 could face up to $180,000 in penalties for failing to complete the work by June.

Borough Manager Paul Williams said a penalty clause in the $5.9 million building contract allows the borough and library to collect $1,200 for each day that construction runs beyond the May 31 deadline.

The building is nearly complete, and a grand opening is scheduled for 4 p.m. Nov. 13, but it’s more than five months late and the potential penalties “are significant,” he said.

Pam Ross, executive director of the Snyder County Libraries, which already has raised nearly all of the $3.6 million construction costs of the new library, said the library board will meet with the Borough Council to discuss the issue.

Williams said officials have not done a full accounting for what may be owed in penalties, as well as the added expense of having to continue to pay Harrisburg architects E.I. Associates and clerk of the works Greenfield Terrace, of Pittsburgh, to oversee the project.

“Our thought is that it would be a shared responsibility” of all the contractors involved in the project, Williams said, adding, “I’m optimistic we can come to an amicable resolution.”

As of Monday, the potential late penalty owed by general contractor Palmer Construction, of McConnellsburg, and subcontractors Matchline Mechanical, of Ephrata, LTS Plumbing and Heating, of Paxinos, and Tra Electric, of Watsontown, is about $162,000.

Bill Palmer, president of Palmer Construction, did not return a call for comment Monday.

Borough Council President Brian Farrell said the council plans to review the bills once the project is complete and couldn’t say whether the contractors would have to pay the full penalty, plus added expenses related to the five-month construction delay.

A commercial contractor with 35 years of experience, Farrell said he doesn’t know of any building project that has been finished by the scheduled date.

He said some of the delay with the municipal building and library was due to issues out of the contractors’ control, including Tropical Storm Lee, which hit in the fall of 2011 just as the work got under way. It caused problems with on-site well drilling.

“There are always issues with construction. The main thing is the building is done right, and it’s beautiful,” Farrell said. “I think we got our money’s worth.”

Meanwhile, as the finishing touches are done on the interior and exterior, borough and library officials are moving furniture, shelving and books into the new building this week.

The temporary library at the former Jackson-Penn Elementary School on Route 204 will close at 5 p.m. Saturday, though the book drop-off will remain open. Community libraries in Middleburg, Beavertown and McClure also are open to the public.