By Mary Thurwachter
Construction on Lantana’s library halted early in December after town officials discovered the general contractor, Sierra Construction Management & Remodeling Corp., was operating without a license.
Council member Mark Zeitler discovered the problem when he questioned a change order for additional air-conditioning work at the library. He noticed the absence of a license number for Sierra on the company’s sign in front of the construction site.
“If they don’t have a license, they can’t have insurance,” said Zeitler, an air-conditioning contractor with 28 years of experience.
Zeitler took his concerns to Town Manager Brian Raducci, who halted construction Dec. 9.
“Sierra was unable to timely meet all of the state-required contractor technical qualifications,” said Eddie Crockett, Lantana’s director of operations. Crockett said since then, Town Attorney Max Lohman and staff recommended assigning the agreement from Sierra to Multitech Corp., a qualifying contractor employed by Sierra throughout the renovation.
“Multitech currently meets all state and local contractor requirements and the town, Sierra and Multitech are all amenable to this assignment,” Crockett told the Town Council at its Jan. 10 meeting.
Vice Mayor Pro Tem Karen Lythgoe asked Crockett if Sierra’s license had expired since the initial contract was signed or if the staff just missed it when reviewing the bid.
“We missed it,” Crockett said.
“And we’ve got processes in place now that when we sign a contract with some business that we check licenses now?” Lythgoe asked.
“That is correct,” Crockett responded.
The Town Council voted 4-1, with Zeitler dissenting, to assign the contract to Multitech. Zeitler questioned whether Multitech had workers compensation insurance.
Reached by phone on Jan. 25, Raducci said the contract with Multitech has been signed.
“We’re just getting all the verification process out of the way to make sure there are no further issues with insurance requirements and making sure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed,” he said. “It takes time to verify some of the documents.”
He said he hoped construction would resume early in February.
Crockett confirmed that a restart date had not been firmed up and he wouldn’t estimate when the library would reopen. It has a temporary home at the town’s Recreation Center.
“Material and equipment delays will also be a concern going forward,” he said.
Mayor Robert Hagerty thanked Zeitler and Raducci for bringing the issue to light.
In what Lantana officials would not say was a related matter, the town placed Assistant Director of Public Works Joel Cortes on administrative leave in mid-January.
“We are not currently at liberty to discuss active personnel actions,” Human Resources Assistant Director Myila Young wrote in an email to The Coastal Star.
The town awarded the library contract to low-bidder Sierra, of Weston, for $723,200 on July 26. The next-lowest bid came in at $883,932 from West Construction of Lantana.
The library has been at 205 W. Ocean Ave. since the early 1990s after the Carteret Savings & Loan failed. Before that, it was housed since 1947 in the former bridge tender’s house on Ocean Avenue.
Once the renovation is complete, the library will have ADA-compliant restrooms, a centralized circulation desk, special spaces for children and teens and a community center for adult activities.
“We’re very happy with the work that has been done,” Raducci said. “It’s going to be the town jewel when it’s done.”