KWETB informed of Newbridge school problems year before site shut

St Conleth's building site remains closed

Conor McHugh

Reporter:

Conor McHugh

Email:

conor.mchugh@leinsterleader.ie

KWETB informed of Newbridge school problems year before site shut

St Conleth's site remains closed

Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board were informed as far back as September of 2016 that there were problems with elements of the extension to St Conleth’s Community College in Newbridge.

It is the refusal of one of the sub-contractors involved in the project, Sam Deacon of Drumderry Precast from Bunclody in Wexford, to hand over certification for his own work which has caused the closure of the building site in Newbridge’s Station Road. Mr Deacon has said he believes it would be “grossly irresponsible to contribute in any way to the use of a building in any way where questions regarding the quality of the construction” remain unanswered.

The site was closed on December 8 last. The current school building was designed for 250 students, but currently has 477, and it is estimated that demand for school places in Kildare is growing at a rate of 320 students every year, the equivalent of another small school.

The Leinster Leader has learned that KWETB, which will run the €6.77 million extension once it opens, was informed of difficulties more than a year before work halted at the site.

Correspondence between the various parties, seen by this reporter, shows that Mr Deacon wrote to former KWETB Chief Executive Sean Ashe on September 29, 2016, outlining his difficulties.

Mr Deacon’s concern related to his discovery, earlier in June 2016, that concrete beams and columns, which form part of the supporting skeleton of the new extension, were built and supplied by a company which had used his company name, Drumderry Precast, on drawings and engineering calculations for the items.

Health and Safety statements relating to the construction and installation of the items also bore the name of Drumderry.

However, Drumderry did not build the columns or beams, and the use of Drumderry’s name on documents relating to the work was without Mr Deacon’s knowledge or permission.

The safety statements which had been drawn up to cover the construction and installation of the beams and columns referred constantly to Drumderry staff, and were produced on Drumderry-headed paper, even though they were the responsibility of another company.

Speaking to the Leinster Leader, Mr Deacon explained that his initial concern was to make sure that Drumderry would not be associated with the work of the other company.

On November 25, 2016, Newbridge legal firm Coughlan and White wrote to him on behalf of the KWETB, telling him that his “clients have no contract or dealings with you” and instructing that he cease communication with them.

Drumderry did have a contract to supply some floors to the new school extension, which they did. It is the certification for these floors which Mr Deacon has withheld and which has caused the shutdown on site.

On November 10, the main contractor on the extension project, K&J Townmore, took a High Court action against Drumderry over the release of the certificates.

In an affidavit to the court, Mr Deacon said it would be “grossly irresponsible to contribute in any way to the use of a building in any way where questions regarding the quality of the construction” remain unanswered.

In that case, Judge Michael Twomey found against Sam Deacon, and ordered the release of the certificates. Mr Deacon has since lodged an appeal against that decision to the Supreme Court, which is listed for a date in March.

In a statement, the KWETB acknowledged that difficulties with contractor certification have been a recurring challenge for this project “and the design team has pursued the matter of essential certification since December 2016”.

“The parties to the KWETB building contract are the main contractor, K&J Townmore, the design team, lead by MCOH Architects and KWETB.”

It explained that KWETB do not have a contractual relationship with Drumderry Precast, adding that K&J Townmore brought Drumderry in as a sub-contractor.

The statement explained that it was the design team which suspended work in the school last December 8, and that that team is in ongoing contact with the contractor in an effort to resolve the matter.

The KWETB said that “positive work is ongoing in the background and many matters have progressed.

“KWETB are resolute that we cannot take possession of the building until all matters concerning certifications are resolved to our satisfaction thus ensuring that the best standards of safety and construction are met.”

“It is a matter of record that legal representatives acting on behalf of KWETB have exchanged letters with the representatives of Drumderry Ltd. As these matters have yet to be resolved KWETB cannot comment any further.”

The statement concluded that “KWETB is fully engaged, working hard and committed to progressing the building project.”

Sean Ashe, who was the CEO of the KWETB when the matter first arose, responded to a query saying that he is is retired from the organisation and reiterated that Drumderry had no contractual arrangement with KWETB.

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