Watchung HVAC
Watchung School
PHOTO BY ERIN ROLL/STAFF

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

The replacement of Watchung’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system may have run into another delay.

The BOE approved a contract for the HVAC system upgrades in the school’s annex building on Oct. 15.

Now, the contract has been declared null and void due to a technical error. The board voted Nov. 7 to reject the contract.

The BOE had awarded the contract to Industrial Cooling Corporation based in Metuchen, one of nine companies to submit bids for the work.

But the contract could be jeopardized due to questions over whether the company is qualified to do the plumbing work needed for the project:

“After further review of the bid package submitted by ICC, it has been determined that said contract contained a material defect, mainly the failure to provide proof that they are prequalified with State Department of the Treasury, Division of Property Management and Construction…to perform the plumbing work outlined in the project manual [as required by state law],” the resolution states.

The contract would be rendered null and void as a result, the resolution stated. The remaining eight bids submitted for the project are all above the district’s budget.

The auditorium, used as a drop-off and pick-up point at the school, as well as a gathering place for special events, has been under scrutiny by parents who have reported that the auditorium becomes uncomfortably warm and stuffy during the summer months, to the point that parents said their children were becoming ill from heat exhaustion.

The annex was also reported to have a problem with fans circulating dust and other allergens, a potential risk to children with asthma.
The replacement of the HVAC system was included on the priority list of capital projects by the district’s architects in November 2017. The project was expected to cost about $766,000, according to architects’ estimates.

On Oct. 15, the project was approved for a total amount of $793,500. Of that money, $707,000 was to be funded through a bond ordinance and the remainder was to come from the capital reserve. The BOE awarded the contract on the recommendation of its architects and its legal firm.

The work was expected to begin in November and continue through April.

The contract’s dismissal is the second bidding-related delay that the project has encountered this year. In May, the district threw out all of the bids that had been submitted for the project because they came in over the district’s budget.