The Bayonne City Council has rejected the only bid received from a contractor to complete renovations at the former Holy Family Academy.
The building is currently under construction and is slated to be the new headquarters of the Bayonne Economic Opportunity Foundation (BEOF). The school will also be the new home to the city’s Head Start program, for low-income and special needs preschool students, ages 3 to 5.
The school closed in 2013 due to declining enrollment and financial issues. It’s been vacant ever since. In 2017, the city purchased the property for $2.5 million with the intention to move the BEOF from its current multiple properties to one location.
While the interior of the building is currently being renovated, the exterior and the façade will remain the same.
Issues with the bid
City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski said it was very concerning that the city is rejecting the bid.
“I understand why we’re rejecting the bid, and we need to reject the bid because it’s way over what it should be that we can afford,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “We purchased this property over two years ago and it’s way behind schedule. This was supposed to be open and have a kindergarten in there. At the very least, the office space should have been renovated.”
Ashe-Nadrowski said that the city purchased the school when it closed, a regular occurrence in Bayonne, and turned it over to the BEOF to renovate the building. Ashe-Nadrowski said the three properties that the BEOF and Head Start currently resides in will be sold to pay back the debt incurred by the purchase of Holy Family.
“The city is not really out of money because the BEOF does make the scheduled payments for us, but that’s three properties that are not on our tax rolls that they should be paying taxes when its done,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “I’m really concerned and I’m not sure what the delay is. It’s a city project and we have no idea what’s going on. We see money going there. We spent over $500,000 already and I think that got us asbestos removal. I know there’s more to it, but we don’t see all that so I would ask that we get provided a report.”
A quarterly report
Ashe-Nadrowski called for a quarterly report on the project and a new detailed timeline of when the renovations will be completed. She reiterated the importance of selling the old BEOF properties, getting those properties back on the tax payroll, paying off the debt incurred by purchasing Holy Family, and to opening the new BEOF headquarters and the new location Head Start.
“We have more people who fall in that category for those types of services and we are not able to provide them,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “There’s a long waiting list for Head Start and this was a project to expand that program and give that opportunity to more residents. Two years is a long time. Maybe the city should help out on this, I don’t know what the holdup is.”
Ashe-Nadrowski said that the way the renovations were bid out is the reason why only one contractor bid on it. She said that the bid was for all the renovations, which she said was unusual and made it difficult for contractors to bid.
Following her request, BEOF Director Samantha Howard gave an update on the ongoing renovations to Holy Family. Howard said the BEOF has been aggressively applying for grants, having already received some including one from the Head Start organization to renovate the school.
Opening this year
Howard said the deadline for all construction to finish will be as soon as this year because there is a deadline on spending the grant funding from Head Start. She hopes to get the bid for the final renovations out as soon as next month and construction will start as soon as everything has been signed off
According to Howard, construction will be worked on aggressively through the summer to ensure that both the BEOF and Head Start open in the fall.
So far, Howard said that $500,000 went to remediation from the removal of asbestos from the building and the removal and update of the electrical system. Phase one of environmental reporting has been completed.
The final renovations will install new tanks after the old ones were removed during the asbestos clearing. The construction will also renovate the roof.
Ashe-Nadrowski questioned why the bid was sent out as one package.
“My understanding is that some people didn’t bid on it because of it being one big package,” Ashe-Nadrowski said.
Howard said that came on the recommendation of city engineer Rob Russo and city architect Al Sambade. Howard said she was originally going to bid it out individually until their recommendations.
Ashe-Nadrowski pondered if the city should bid the renovations out individually.
“The bid is way too high, so I don’t know if we should take a different approach when we bid it out, so to get more competitive bids in general,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “But that’s not my expertise. I’m just concerned about the delay. We expected this to be ready for last school year.”
Howard said the delay was in part due to Head Start mistakenly tabling grant funding for the project. Ashe-Nadrowski shifted her attention to the convent part of the Holy Family property, which will be the site of the BEOF headquarters.
Ashe-Nadrowski asked when that can be moved forward since that would allow the city to sell two of the buildings, currently occupied by BEOF, that would offset the cost of the purchase of Holy Family.
Howard said that will be funded by separate funds and go out in a separate bid, but did not clarify when that would be.
Ashe-Nadrowski thanked her for the update and asked that she give the City Council a quarterly report on the matter, which Howard said she “would be happy to.”
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