Nearly a year after it was started, the town has declared the Revson Baseball Fields renovation project abandoned by the contractor, Marc D’Andrea of Aqua-Turf.
“This has been a painful process and it’s been difficult for all of us. It’s a shame,” said First Selectman Gayle Weinstein on Monday. But plans are in place to resolve the problems on the field as soon as possible. “We are getting people we trust to come in and do the job correctly. Unfortunately, this guy held us up for the past month,” Ms. Weinstein said of Mr. D’Andrea.
“That’s a complete lie,” Mr. D’Andrea said when contacted by phone on Tuesday. “I did not abandon this… I met or exceeded all deadlines. I worked with them very diligently. This is not right on their part.”
The first selectman said the good news is the town withheld a final payment of $46,000 from Mr. D’Andrea, and that should be enough to do the necessary repairs to the fields.
“These people are unruly and nothing is ever good enough… Their intent is not to pay me,” Mr. D’Andrea said.
Aqua-Turf of Orange was hired by the town in July 2011 for $144,900 to do excavation, grading and replacement of infield sod, clay and loam, and to install drains in the outfield to try to improve the drainage problems that have plagued Revson for years.
Work progressed so slowly, however, that the town looked into hiring a new contractor in November 2011. Aqua-Turf stepped up its efforts — until the winter weather made it impossible to keep working — and the town agreed to continue with Aqua-Turf.
Ms. Weinstein said at that time that one of the biggest concerns with regard to changing contractors was that if there is a problem later with the field not draining properly — Revson’s chronic problem — a switch in contractors part way through construction would give too many people the opportunity to point fingers, ultimately making it impossible to determine responsibility.
“We had to take that into consideration, especially given the history with Revson,” Ms. Weinstein said at the beginning of December 2011.
During the course of digging up the outfield in the fall and then later in the spring, several things happened. Some irrigation pipes were damaged by Aqua-Turf’s equipment. But, everyone was aware that would likely happen, and replacing those pipes and irrigation heads was included in the project. Ms. Weinstein said the contractor claimed he did, in fact, replace the broken irrigation lines, but later, after sod was put on the outfield and died in portions, the town suspected there were still damaged lines.
Mr. D’Andrea confirmed this week he did replace the irrigation system. The field was dropped by two feet and the irrigation system was six to eight inches underground, so he knew ahead of time it would have to be replaced.
Before construction began, he marked with stakes where the sprinkler heads were located, Mr. D’Andrea said. When he reinstalled the new system, he did so using the original measurements, even adding a few additional ones, he said.
“They still think it’s not done right. They inspected it and said it was OK, then they said later it wasn’t,” Mr. D’Andrea said. “There’s no problem with it. It’s done.”
The other thing that happened this spring was the town’s public works department helped to remove some boulders, rocks and debris from the outfield when Mr. D’Andrea claimed it would cost more money for him to do it because he didn’t have the necessary equipment. Now, with portions of both the varsity and junior varsity outfields “sinking,” Ms. Weinstein said Mr. D’Andrea is claming the outfield is not his responsibility because the DPW worked on the field.
Mr. D’Andrea said he was not aware when he began the project the extent of the debris he would find under the surface.
“We’ve uncovered cement fence posts, an iron catch basin, gates, a swimming pool, part of a house, tree roots — a lot of crap and nobody told me about this. This was built incorrectly originally… The entire site — the conditions were horrid,” he said.
Mr. D’Andrea said he has “documented proof” that it was the DPW that caused the damage to the outfield. He said he had graded the field to the proper specifications and the town engineer OK’d it. “It was pitched perfectly and ready to go,” Mr. D’Andrea said.
The very next day, he continued, the town brought the DPW in to clear the rocks and debris. “They made their mess,” he said.
Mr. D’Andrea also said the town workers wasted time and effort because they “dug everything up” instead of simply breaking up smaller rocks, which would have been OK.
“But whatever I said or suggested was questioned,” he said.
Over the last few weeks, it’s the infield that has been a bigger problem than the outfield.
The contract with Aqua-Turf specified DuraEdge Classic, an infield clay used on professional baseball fields, be put at Revson.
When clay was brought in to Revson, several parents pointed out that the clay at the junior varsity field and the varsity field looked different — and neither looked quite right. Mr. D’Andrea insisted he used the DuraEdge Classic, and that he installed the specified 180 tons, as per the contract, Ms. Weinstein said, but the town sent the material out to be analysed.
In the meantime, the town wanted to order more clay but was unsure how much was needed. A representative from DuraEdge came to look at the field, and he said not only was the clay that had been installed not theirs, but it contained large aggregate that was “not suitable for play,” Ms. Weinstein said.
The material on the field now is a mix of red clay, red infield mix, and red stone dust. “We were told it is more appropriate for a warning edge than an infield,” Ms. Weinstein said.
She said DuraEdge confirmed that Mr. D’Andrea ordered the correct clay from them, but he never picked it up. The contractor told town officials he found it elsewhere for less money, but the town has not seen confirmation of that, the first selectman said.
On Tuesday, Mr. D’Andrea said of the town’s claim that he used the incorrect clay, “They are incorrect.” He said he followed the specifications in the contract. He believes the problem has more to do with a sales representative who was “bitter about not getting the sale.”
Mr D’Andrea said he had the clay tested and told the town what needed to be done to fix the problem, but they “just kept forcefully making these deadlines.”
Ms. Weinstein said legally, the town had to give Aqua-Turf time to make good on the contract. She said Mr. D’Andrea was given until noon last Thursday, May 31, to address the outfield, clay, and several other “punchlist” items. When the town didn’t hear from him, it was determined Aqua-Turf had abandoned the project.
The town has ordered clay directly from DuraEdge — DuraEdge Recreational, which is slightly less expensive and easier to maintain than the originally specified DuraEdge Classic, but still acceptable and “far superior” to what is there now, Ms. Weinstein said.
Dennis Brolin of Sports Turf Specialties is scheduled to install the clay on the varsity field on June 13 or 14, depending on the weather. At that time, he will give the town a quote to replace the clay on the JV field, but he told the first selectman finding a time he is available to do it might prove difficult.
An inspector from National Irrigation came to the field on Friday, June 1. The inspector “feels strongly that the outfield issues are due to cracked irrigation lines,” Ms. Weinstein said in an email update sent Saturday, June 2, to some members of the baseball community and several town officials, including the selectmen and the finance board chairman.
National Irrigation has agreed to come at the end of this week or the beginning of next (depending on weather) to do a full inspection of the irrigation system, blowing all the lines and locating cracks on any of the sprinkler heads, Ms. Weinstein said. The inspection alone is expected to take about three days, and then any necessary repairs would need to be scheduled.
Ms. Weinstein said repairs to the sinking outfield were supposed to sart this week, but they will be postponed until the irrigation work is completed, since that might entail having to dig up the field in places.
“We have hired Frank Peloso to do the outfield work, and he is ready to begin as soon as National is finished with the irrigation system,” Ms. Weinstein said in her email.
Ms. Weinstein said, depending on the extent of the irrigation system damage, she is hopeful the town has enough money from the original project budget to cover the cost of replacing the clay on both the varsity and JV fields and fixing both outfields.
The first selectman acknowledged that Mr. D’Andrea might try to sue the town for the $46,000 he was not paid, but she is not overly concerned. “We have documented all that he has done wrong, including having letters from Dura Edge proving that he installed the wrong material. He’d be stupid to sue us,” she said in her email.
Mr. D’Andrea said he, too, has documented proof that he did the job properly and he is not responsible for the problems that exist at Revson now.
“I completed to spec everything. I went over and above what I had to do,” he said.
Mr. D’Andrea claims the town “forced” him to work when he shouldn’t have — when the field was too wet — which caused more damage. He said he met often with officials who were “unruly” and unreasonable. “It was like talking to a brick wall. They don’t understand.”
Mr. D’Andrea believes he has been caught in the middle of a political mess. “I was put through a nightmare… There have been so many irrational people on this project that couldn’t come to grips. It’s severely affected my health” both physically and mentally, Mr. D’Andrea said.