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* This article first appeared in The Times Herald-Record on November 22, 2000. Used by permission.

 

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Lawmakers ask who's at fault for delays on $30M project

GOSHEN: Orange County lawmakers did not get many answers from the man in charge of overseeing the additions to the county court house.

By Christopher Mele
The Times Herald-Record
cmele@th-record.com

Orange County's troubled court addition is now projected to be ready by Jan. 26 -- two months later than the latest revised deadline.

Questions continue to abound as to what went wrong, how the $30 million project fell more than a year behind schedule and who should be held accountable. In a meeting Monday with the county's project manager, Nelson Meek, legislators learned that pinning blame is like hitting a moving target.

Legislator Jeffrey Berkman pressed Meek -- a longtime county consultant from South Carolina -- about his oversight of the project, what duties he has remaining and at what future cost.

Meek's customary Southern charm gave way to an icy gaze. He quietly but firmly told Berkman that he was not answering any of his questions because parts of the project are in litigation.

Meek did say the project has a "real good shot" at being ready by January 26. The late delivery of acoustical tiles and the project's roofing contractor's personal problems -- the recent death of his wife -- pose possible holdups.

Berkman, D-Middletown, pressed on about the building's design, layout, interior finishes and construction problems.

"You're five years past that," said County Executive Joseph Rampe, adding that a 20-member committee from various government branches decided those details years ago.

"Those questions don't serve any purpose," Rampe told Berkman. "It's very easy to be a Monday morning quarterback. It's not right to do that."

Some lawmakers said they knew from the start that the general construction low bidder, The Losco Group, had a history of tardy projects that ended up being dragged into court. Losco, which was fired in the spring, blames county snafus for the delays.

"It was like the Mir (troubled Russian) space station," said Legislator A. Alan Seidman, R-Cornwall. "It was built by the lowest bidder and this is what you get."

All content © 2000 Jeffrey Berkman, except where indicated.
Jeffrey Berkman
Orange County Legislature
PO Box 787
Middletown, New York 10940
(845) 342-6813

 

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