Colonial School Board Votes to Reject Bids for General Contractor to Build New Middle School and Rescinds Controversial “Responsible Contractors” Policy for Rebid Process

During its August 8th meeting, the Colonial School Board voted 8-1 to reject the two bids it received for the role of general contractor for the construction of a new Colonial Middle School and rescind the “Responsible Contractors” policy for a rebid. Only School Board President Felix Raimondo voted against the motion.

The rebid was driven by the concern of having received only two bids, both of which were over budget (the lowest by $4.5+ million). You can view the breakdown of the financials from the original bid here.

In comparison, Upper Dublin School District, which does not have a “Responsible Contractors” policy issued a similar bid this summer and had five responses.

The adoption of the “Responsible Contractors” policy in 2018 was a major point of contention between members of the Colonial School Board. Those for it, Board President Felix Raimondo, Vice President Leslie Finegold, Adam Schupack, Jennifer Dow and Eunice Franklin Becker, argued that it was necessary to ensure the school was built professionally and safely.

Those against (and they were really only against one portion of it), Susan Moore, Cathy Peduzzi, Mel Brodsky, and Rosemary Northcutt, were concerned that the policy would result in fewer companies bidding due to a very specific type of apprentice program a qualifying bidder was required to be a participant in. The basic argument against this type of policy is that it limits bidders to union shops.

In the below video you can watch the motion, public comment, board discussion and vote (it is qued to play starting with this portion of the meeting):

A few things to point out:

  • The unions filled the meeting room with its members while the “Responsible Contractors” policy was being debated. The fact that the contractors they hoped to drive businesses to didn’t respond should make other municipalities and school districts hesitant to adopt such a policy.
  • There is still the possibility that the rebid doesn’t pan out and only a small number of bids are received and those continue to be over budget. The issue might not be exclusively about the policy, but the fact that the economy is growing and there are a lot of construction projects to compete with for contractors.
  • If the rebid doesn’t result in more bids (and bids within budget), the length of time that it took to adopt the policy will need to be examined to see if it placed the district at a competitive disadvantage. Meaning, other large construction projects got out into the market first.
  • And the big question is, if the rebid comes back with overbudget responses, should the district look at going back to a major renovation vs. construction of a completely new school? A major renovation was the original plan.
  • This is the second time the “Responsible Contractors” policy has been waived since its adoption.
  • There are five seats up for election this November on the school board. In the May primary, current Board President Felix Raimondo, did not receive enough votes to qualify for the November ballot. Finegold is running with two first time candidates and Moore and Peduzzi are running with two first time candidates and a previous member of the board.

More to come.