The Providence Journal


Construction Company Refutes Union's Allegations


Dimeo Construction Co., contracted to make renovations at Portsmouth High School, says the Laborer's New England Region Organizing Fund is engaging in a campaign to have the company become part of the union.





PORTSMOUTH - In a letter provided to The Journal, Dimeo Construction Co. is refuting all allegations made by the Laborer's New England Region Organizing Fund that the construction company is irresponsible and has a track record of showing neither skill nor ability.


Dimeo, a Providence-based company, is the construction manager hired by the School Committee for the school bond projects currently under way in town.


NEROF is a department of the Laborers' International Union of North America which represents 800,000 employees in construction, hospitals, bus drivers and the public sector.


Executive Vice President Bradford S. Dimeo says NEROF has engaged in a campaign against the company in an attempt to have it become part of the union, of which it has not been a member since the early 1990s.


Obviously, we're proud of our safety record and how we work. These guys are throwing out a lot of red herrings, said Dimeo from his office yesterday.


Our industry has gone through a lot of changes. At one time, a lot of local firms signed on to unions, but in the '80s many shied away from that for more flexibility. Now that the industry is going strong again, the unions are trying to get a number of firms signed with them so that we use laborers from the union for work, Dimeo said.


They're looking for an exclusive agreement with us. We're in the process of discussing an appropriate relationship, but haven't made a decision yet, Dimeo said.


About 25 NEROF protesters showed up at last week's groundbreaking at Portsmouth High School, holding up signs denouncing Dimeo and chanting, Say no to Dimeo. They stood behind the School Committee as it ceremoniously broke ground for renovations at the school and posed for pictures.


Dimeo has been contracted as part of a $9.2-million bond voters approved in November to make $5.6 million in renovations at the high school. Renovations are planned for science classrooms and administrative offices, and the construction of a new gymnasium which will take place after the classrooms and offices have been completed.


NEROF provided the School Committee with packets containing articles and reports about problems Dimeo has had with prior projects.


Despite the picketing, loud whistles and shouting through megaphones at the groundbreaking last week, Dimeo officials on the site refused to comment at the time.


School Committee member Ann-Marie Neal had not yet read the packet when contacted by The Journal Friday, but said she was not pleased with the "act" put on by NEROF and supported the committee's decision to hire Dimeo.


We've been negotiating with these people for a year why wait until now? Our best interest is in the school, not in them [NEROF]. They should have taken this up a long time ago, she said.


NEROF's regional coordinator, William Goodrich, says they are merely giving the information it is up to the committee to decide what they want to do with it.


In the packet, NEROF includes a January 1995 Boston Herald article which reported that Massachusetts had to pay $200,000 in fines and create a $1.5-million wetlands area because Dimeo Construction Co. and another Rhode Island company hired to build a county prison in Dartmouth illegally filled wetlands without first getting an Army Corps of Engineers permit.


As a result, Dimeo was ordered to provide a wetlands training course for its employees.


In its letter, Dimeo says the site plan was approved by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and a portion of the wetlands was filled in accordance with the documents. However, the letter says the federal EPA took exception with the Massachusetts DEP's approvals, presented a formal case against the state and resolved the issue.


In August of the same year, The Worcester Telegram & Gazette ran a story after Dimeo withdrew its bid on the proposed $33 million Worcester Convention Center.


Days before it was to sign the contract for the 192,000 square- foot facility, Dimeo sent a fax to the city manager withdrawing its $27.6-million bid.


The move forced the city to hire the second-lowest bidder for the project, J.L. Marshall & Sons Inc., of Pawtucket, and threatened to sue Dimeo for deceptive practices, alleging Dimeo withdrew its bid because of a pending award of a $73-million contract for another project.


At the time and in its recent letter, Dimeo officials defended their withdrawal on the basis that the city had not secured all of the funds it needed for the project from the state.


The issues... stem from the City of Worcester not recognizing or following the state's law requiring that funding appropriations need to be in place in order to enter into a legally binding construction contract, the letter says.


Dimeo states that the city refused to recognize a price adjustment resulting from delays and rising costs.


In November 1995, the Worcester Business Journal reported that the Massachusetts attorney general issued an advisory opinion indicating Dimeo was not responsible to the city for the difference between its bid and the next bidder's price because there had never been a legal contract between the two parties.


In March, an article by Providence Journal columnist Bob Kerr referred to Fall River's Town Hall, built on a Route 195 overpass, after concrete slabs fell from beneath the building into rush-hour traffic. Dimeo had been the general contractor.


The building had problems since its opening in 1976. More than 50 windows had to be replaced and the heating system had faltered.


Dimeo had filed a lawsuit alleging faults in the trusses caused delays and drove up costs.


A fax from Dimeo attributes years of deterioration and other factors such as moisture infiltration and lack of regular inspections and maintenance to the degeneration of the clips that held the concrete slabs in place.


When we built that job our team was concerned on how to put that together. We thought we should eliminate the concrete panels below, but the owner decided to go with them, Dimeo said.

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