GROTON -- At a joint meeting between the Board of Selectmen and Building Committee, members voted to terminate the town's contract with TLT Construction Corp., the company that has been in charge of building the new $9.5 million Center Fire Station on Farmers Row.
According to a termination letter dated Jan. 27, TLT had failed to supply enough skilled workers for the project, failed to make required payments to subcontractors, failed to maintain both a project manager and superintendent, and failed to provide direct supervision of the work.
Finally, the letter claimed "abandonment of the project" by TLT.
As a result of the termination, the town of Groton will take over direct oversight of the project as general contractor.
Town Manager Mark Haddad met with selectmen and Building Committee at a special meeting held on the morning of Jan. 27 to bring members up to date on the events that had led up to the termination request and to fill them in on what will happen next.
"At this point," declared Haddad, "TLT is gone."
The town manager referred to news received by the town that TLT no longer had the funds to continue meeting its obligations to any of its outstanding projects, including that of Groton. The news came when it was learned that the company admitted such following legal action in another community.
It was suggested that TLT's troubles stemmed from under-bidding on projects and then using payments from one project to pay subcontractors waiting for their money on others.
Groton officials had an inkling of trouble ahead as far back as August of 2013, when TLT had failed to pay subcontractors on the fire-station project even after receiving funds to do so from the town.
At that time, the town informed TLT that it was considering declaring the contractor in default of its requirements under a performance bond with Groton.
A meeting of the two sides was immediately called for on Aug. 28 and default avoided when a new agreement was reached on payment schedules.
The agreement proved only temporary, however, as the town was notified by bond holder Western Surety on Dec. 12 that it had received complaints of nonpayment from a number of subcontractors dealing with TLT. As a result, Western Surety asked that the town make "no further disbursement of contract funds" without the bond holder's consent.
Soon after, the town learned from a roofing contractor working on the fire station that a check from TLT in the amount of $103,269 bounced. On Dec. 20, TLT notified the town that due to lack of funding, it could no longer pay the project manager, superintendent and others to work on the project.
Since that time, according to the termination letter, TLT has "essentially abandoned" work on the fire station, forcing the town to take over management on the project.
Begun last spring, the new fire station building includes a four-bay garage and two-story administration complex with offices on the first floor; fitness room, dormitory, kitchen, dining room, and day room planned for the second floor; and HVAC and other mechanical equipment to be placed in the third floor "attic" space.
At an interest rate of 2.6 percent, the town borrowed $7.7 million for a total cost for the project of $9.5 million when the 22-year life of the loan is completed.
With the construction schedule behind by 21 days, Haddad said that barring more unforeseen complications, he does not expect any substantial delay for completion of the project in the spring.
As it is, the town manager reported that Western Surety has approved an additional loan of $140,000 to pay off all outstanding obligations on the project prior to Dec. 23.
"That will make everybody whole," Haddad said, adding that any remaining obligations could be covered from the project's contingency fund, leaving financing about where it should have been before TLT's implosion.
Currently, Haddad said construction is 63 percent complete and "chugging along" with 25-30 subcontractors on the job every day. Roof and walls of the new station are "tight" with interior work moving forward.
"From that perspective, I couldn't be happier," said Haddad.
To keep things moving, the town hired back the project manager and superintendent with TLT's cooperation, making them employees of the town and ensuring smooth continuation of work on the fire station.
"It was important to keep this project moving forward to get it done," explained Haddad. "We wanted to keep up the momentum."
Without them, and permission from Western Surety to continue, said the town manager, "everything would have fallen apart. Our worst fear was that the bonding company would shut down the project. We're at a critical point now where we want to get things done."
Haddad said going forward, most potential problems have been identified and addressed but unforeseen issues are possible, requiring a return to Town Meeting for extra funding.
"But I think we'll be okay," he concluded.
It was on the recommendation of the town's legal counsel that Groton terminate its contract with TLT. In final decisions, the Building Committee voted unanimously in favor of the motion while Board of Selectmen members Peter Cunningham, Joshua Degen and Jack Petropoulos did the same.
BOS members Stuart Schulman and Anna Eliot were not present.
A call to TLT was not returned by press time.