A Plattsburgh construction company secured a $10.4 million state contract to build the new Schenectady train station less than two months after one agency declared the vendor “non-responsible” and removed it from a project at the Harriman State Office Building Campus in Albany.
The state Office of General Services terminated its $31.4 million contract with Murnane Building Contractors, an experienced state vendor, for hazardous material abatement and renovation at Harriman’s Building 4 in mid-November “because of Murnane’s failure to meet schedule deadlines and its failure to supervise and properly manage its subcontractors,” OGS spokesperson Heather Groll said in an email.
Non-responsibility determinations pertain to specific projects and do not prevent vendors from obtaining future state work. Groll said Murnane had otherwise been an “effective contractor.”
A spokesperson for the state Department of Transportation, which awarded the train station contract, said the agency “was aware” of Murnane’s “prior issues” but that a project-specific assessment deemed the vendor responsible.
Murnane has challenged its removal from the Harriman project, submitting a notice of claim to OGS in late November. Schedule delays on the project “were in part the result of the presence of an unforeseen condition,” Murnane told DOT’s contract review unit at a meeting in December, records show. “Namely a hard and very difficult-to-remove yellow glue which was discovered underneath the spray-on-fireproofing on the majority of the existing steel and metal decking on the project.”
In 2015, Murnane expeditiously completed a “nearly identical” project at Harriman’s Building 5, the contractor told DOT at the December meeting. A representative of Murnane’s surety company, who also attended the meeting, said it continues to support Murnane—a “well financed, well run, well regarded firm.”
In finding Murnane to be a responsible bidder for the Schenectady project, DOT cited Murnane’s “history of building public projects successfully over a long period of time,” the lack of asbestos abatement work involved (“unlike the OGS project”), and the company’s intent to “self-perform much of the work.” A subcontractor will provide “scheduling monitoring services throughout the project.”
Murnane did not return requests for comment.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office reviewed and approved the contract. OSC was also aware of OGS’ recent experience with Murnane, “which is why we delayed approval of the contract,” said press secretary Kate Gurnett. The office provided The Alt a collection of vetting-related documents in response to a Freedom of Information Law request.
To obtain the train station contract, Murnane had submitted the lower of two bids, which DOT opened in mid-October. The comptroller’s office approved the contract on Dec. 27, according to a database it maintains.
Construction of the long-awaited Amtrak station in downtown Schenectady starts this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a Dec. 29 statement, the Daily Gazette reported. An Amtrak spokesperson told The Alt the railroad service will play a supporting role amid construction.
The state awarded Murnane the Harriman Building 4 contract in November 2016. In the months that followed, the project saw “schedule delays, Department of Labor violations, multiple breaches of health and safety procedures, lack of proper supervision, and non-responsiveness to requests for corrective action,” OGS said in a non-responsibility determination issued this September regarding a project subcontractor.
Murnane dismissed the subcontractor, SCE Environmental Group, in August, citing, in part, a failure to produce an updated schedule. SCE then sued Murnane for wrongful termination and breach of contract. In response, Murnane asserted counterclaims, blaming SCE for delays and lost labor hours. The lawsuit is ongoing.
Murnane replaced SCE with another company, but in November OGS terminated both “as a result of massive contamination of the Project site by Murnane’s new subcontractor,” according to a footnote in a separate lawsuit filed by SCE against OGS regarding an alleged violation of due process. (That lawsuit is also ongoing.)
According to Groll, the OGS spokesperson, “lead-contaminated water was discharged into the storm sewer” on Oct. 24 during work on Building 4. The spill was reported to the state Department of Environmental Conservation the same day, the agency’s spill database shows.
DEC “is continuing to investigate potential violations at this site,” spokesman Sean Mahar said in a statement. Agency spill response staff oversaw cleanup, which involved Murlane’s subcontractor pumping and cleaning out each of the affected storm basins and excavating any affected soil.
OGS expects the Harriman project to get “back on track” once Murlane’s surety company submits “a takeover plan for OGS’ approval,” Groll said. She did not immediately respond to a question about whether Murnane could potentially be reinstated to complete the job.
This story was updated at 9:25 P.M. to include a statement from DEC.