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Worcester fires Memorial Grove contractor, after Green Hill Park project wasn't done in time for Veterans Day
Telegram & Gazette - 11/23/2018
Nov. 23--WORCESTER -- City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. says he is removing the contractor that was working on the project to restore the World War I Memorial Grove in Green Hill Park.
Empire Design and Construction Co. of Gloucester was supposed to have finished the project on Oct. 1, well before a planned rededication ceremony at Memorial Grove commemorating the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day on Nov. 11.
But when the contractor failed to meet that deadline and did not complete the project in time for the rededication, the city was forced to postpone the ceremony.
Mr. Augustus said contractor's failure to deliver the project on time prompted his decision to remove the company from the project.
"Let me assure folks that I was as disappointed as anyone, given the fact that was a project we really wanted to have delivered on the 100th anniversary (of the end of World War I)," Mr. Augustus told the City Council Tuesday night.
"In retrospect, certainly this person didn't live up to our expectations," he added. "They'll be removed from the job and we'll get somebody else in there to finish it."
The project is now expected to be completed in the spring.
Dedicated in 1928, Memorial Grove was constructed by American Legion Post 5, which is no longer in existence.
The grove, near the Massachusetts Veterans Memorial in Green Hill Park, was created as a ceremonial place on the eastern slope of Crown Hill in the park.
Maple trees were planted, about 400 in total in 22 rows, one for each Worcester resident who lost their life while fighting in World War I. Beneath each tree, a bronze plaque was placed, identifying the person and the branch of the armed services.
But time, the weather and vandalism took a toll on Memorial Grove over the years.
In January 2017, the Parks and Recreation Commission approved conceptual plans for the restoration of Memorial Grove, an effort spearheaded by Brian P. McCarthy, president of the Green Hill Park Coalition.
The restoration work focuses on enhancing the visibility and aesthetics of Memorial Grove, better integrating it with the rest of Green Hill Park and improving access to it.
In addition, the ceremonial center that was in Memorial Grove was redesigned by Steven Van Dessel, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. More than 400 20-foot steel posts are being placed in Memorial Grove with the names of the fallen citizens on them.
Councilor-at-Large Gary Rosen, who chairs the City Council Youth, Parks and Recreation Committee, Tuesday night called the failure to finish the Memorial Grove project on time a "big disappointment."
He questioned why the city went with the lowest bidder for the project when it had a history of not delivering two other major projects on time in other communities. In addition, he wondered why the city did not take action sooner against the contractor when it became apparent that it was not going to meet the Oct. 1 completion date.
"I'm not sure the city was diligent in its efforts back in June, back in July, back in August and September to make sure that this contractor was working on time and does quality work on time," Mr. Rosen said. "This contractor was not qualified or capable to finish this job on time. Why did the city of Worcester choose the lowest bidder for this project? It's not always good to go with the lowest bidder."
Mr. Augustus said the city does exercise discretion in awarding contracts, meaning it does not always choose the lowest bidder. He said the lowest bidder was bypassed for the Patch Reservoir dam repair project and the Route 20 sewer construction project because the city did not feel the contractors in those instances were qualified.
"We do not always award to the lowest bidder the contract," Mr. Augustus said. "So, we are discerning; we're not perfect."
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