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Benches Purchased from Italian Vendor to Remain
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            The exterior courtyard benches produced by an Italian vendor and included on the original plan for Upper Perkiomen's new middle school in Upper Hanover will remain. Last week, following comments from the project's architect and a construction manager, the school board decided not to cancel them at the workshop meeting held on February 28.

            Member Raeann Hofkin proposed a motion to cancel the order, but Melanie Cunningham declined to second the motion despite saying she wanted to. Cunningham said she wasn't prepared to accept a 70 percent loss on the benches. Neither was any other member.  "At this point, there's nothing we can do," Steve Cunningham said.

            According to Robert Breslin, whose architectural firm designed the school on Montgomery Avenue, the district agreed to pay $29,300 for four polymer benches. He told the board that the contractor offered to provide only a $10,000 credit if the members decide to cancel the order.

            Breslin and Zach Zazzo, a project manager with D'Huy Engineering, Inc., both advised against canceling the benches, which have already been ordered.  "I don't think it's a good deal," Breslin said.

            Ending up with only 30 cents on the dollar would not be a good move, according to Zazzo. He said canceling the order would waste a lot of money. "You're not getting value if you do this," Zazzo said during the meeting.

            According to Zazzo, his company did not alert district officials to the cost of the benches because it amounted to a very small percentage of the total project. He also said he didn't think the matter would become an issue because the project is currently $4.1 million under budget (see PlanCon story).

            The school for sixth, seventh and eighth graders currently carries a below budget cost difference of $4.097 million, according to a slide presented during the presentation. The board approved a $49.972 million construction budget. However, the base bid with all accepted alternative bids has totaled $45.874 million.

            According to Breslin, the district has already made a $14,600 down payment on the benches, which will face the auditorium. He said the remaining money will be paid when the benches arrive in 10 or 11 weeks.

            Each of the benches, which measure 13-feet in length, are coated with steel powder and will not rust, according to the architect. "They are very durable," he said. 

            According to Zazzo, each unit will include an attached LED light that normally lasts 35 years. 

            Two weeks earlier, Melanie Cunningham informed the members that she directed the contractors to remove the composite benches from the plan for the school. 

            In a Feb. 18 email message, she wrote that she considers the proposed expenditure, which includes a long lead time and significant paperwork necessary a "crazy amount."

            During the Feb. 14 public meeting, Melanie Cunningham said cancelling the benches would save the district $10,000. She expressed a preference for utilizing domestic benches in the courtyard.






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