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D-161 construction projects closer to completion, officials say

Flossmoor District 161 officials are at odds with the construction company working to finish air conditioning at Parker Junior High School and air and heating systems at Heather Hill School over what extent the projects are complete.
Associate Superintendent Frances LaBella updated the school board Monday on the status of the projects. She said neither project has been turned over to the district, so they are not considered substantially complete. 
As of the Sept. 24, board meeting, Kee Construction has incurred $43,000 in liquidated damages. The company’s contract with the district is being reduced by $1,000 for each day substantial completion is not met past the agreed upon date of Aug. 10.
Kee Construction representatives say substantial completion has been met and that they plan to legally contest the fines, LaBella said.
A representative from Kee Construction could not immediately be reached for comment.
LaBella said she has not received any formal notice of legal action.
“We’re close, a lot closer than we’ve been, but there’s still some things that aren’t quite right,” LaBella said. “They did fire up the boilers last Wednesday at Heather, so we at least know they’re working.”
She said the heating and air conditioning systems are functioning, but some issues like the air conditioning control system still need to be worked out.
“We’re talking about the last items that need to be completed, and (the incomplete projects) are more a nuisance to the district at this point than they are to the comfort of the students,” LaBella said. “But I’m not ready to say that it’s done until it’s done to the level that we expect it.”
The district hired Kee Construction in 2017 for life safety projects including new door systems, exterior building and masonry repairs and new door safety hardware. These projects cost $960,741, which was about $300,000 cheaper than the next lowest bid.
LaBella said the district had similar issues with the company in 2017 with regards to completing projects on time. She said board members had some discussion about rehiring Kee Construction, but the company was again the lowest bidder.
The district awarded about $3.3 million to Kee Construction for work at Parker and Heather Hill to take place during the summer of 2018. 
LaBella said the district cannot restrict a company from bidding, but it could choose not to hire one if it fails to meet certain requirements.
“We’re held to a standard of lowest responsible bidder,” she said. “It’s that ‘responsible’ word that starts being drawn into question.”

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