Coastal Construction, the contractor charged with building the Horace O'Bryant K-8 School, formally requested Friday that School Board members disown comments made in public regarding the project.
The email, sent to School Board Chairman Andy Griffiths and copied to all board members, Superintendent Mark Porter, project architect Rick Z. Smith, and the media, marked the first time the contractor has spoken out on the controversial project. The company's policy is not to communicate with media on the record.
The missive, signed by Coastal Construction Project Executive Keith Sockaloski, states that, "Coastal is concerned with statements made in Board meetings, quoted in the newspapers, and again repeated on US. 1 Radio, by certain Board Members."
It goes on to request that any assertion that Coastal was the contractor that built Coral Shores High School be retracted.
The email also takes issue with a statement allegedly made by "Board-appointed HOB Change Order Specialist" Stuart Kessler that Coastal had "'double-dipped' on the Fire Proofing line item."
"This statement was made without merit and was not correct, as shown to Mr. Porter and yourself the following day," it reads.
Further, Sockaloski states: "It should be noted that all of our change orders have previously been approved by a Monroe County School District authorized signatory, the district's construction manager, and the architect. The failing was that in 28 months of construction, the district failed to report the change orders to the board. This failing was not the fault of the contractor or architect, but rather, the district."
Reached by phone on Friday, Sockaloski declined to comment on the email.
Griffiths sided partly with the contractor.
"They are correct," he said. "They did not build Coral Shores. And I await the documentation to discuss the rest."
District 3 board member Ed Davidson, the most vociferous critic of the project, conceded that the email was likely directed at him.
"I would point out to Mr. Sockaloski that Florida law requires that all change orders must be reviewed by and filed in the minutes of the School Board, which delegated that authority to the superintendent, but only up to a $25,000 limit," Davidson said. "Florida statute 1013.48 requires even such delegated approvals to be reported to the board and entered in its official minutes, neither of which happened over a period of two years.
"There were roughly 16 to 18 change orders that exceeded those limits, and which the superintendent had no authority to approve on his own," Davidson went on. "The contractor is responsible for knowing and obeying both Florida law, School Board policy, and the terms of the contract he signed. Our own attorney advised the board that we had to retroactively reapprove those change orders which had no legal standing, because they violated state law and School Board policy."
Sockaloski's email also referenced the "unsuitable" soil discovered at the site that required extra work.
"We find it interesting that the oversight of change orders does not bring up the fact that the majority of the additive costs are related to the unsuitable soils, and contaminated soils -- that was the responsibility of MCSD (Monroe County School District) to establish those particular liabilities on this site. MCSD commissioned KACO (Kaderabek Company) and EEG (Environmental Enterprise Group Inc.) for said services, not Coastal."
Davidson contested this point as well.
"To the expensive issue of unsuitable soils, I would direct Coastal officials to review page five of the zumBrunnen report, that states as follows: 'A reasonable amount of construction contingency funds are budgeted to fund additional costs that may be encountered during earthwork operations, and road and foundation construction, due to limited amounts of unsuitable soils.'" Davidson said. "But Coastal instead billed the full $300,000 directly to the taxpayers."
Also on Friday, Kessler, in an email sent to a number of interested parties in the construction project, stood by his earlier statements and offered supporting documentation to back them up.