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Charlton handles Town Hall delays

Town of Charlton residents and officials won't be ringing in the New Year inside a completed new town hall, but negotiations and legal paperwork about the unfinished work are likely to hang on well into 2008.

General contractor Schmidt and Schmidt of West Charlton, originally hired to build the new $3.1 million town hall, recently filed a $1 million claim against the town, alleging illegal termination of the contract.

The claim seeks $1.03 million in damages, an amount including damages tied to the cost of labor, materials and equipment of $673,200, improper withholding of payment for work done of $318,303, and $38,500 for work the contractor says was not covered by the original contract.

Ribbons were due to be cut signaling the official completion of the town hall in July 2007. Town officials followed a long and carefully orchestrated plan that began with a vote in November 2005 for approval to move forward. Town officials kept residents apprised of the project on the municipal Web site, which included a detailed timetable and drawings of the building.

The project was approved for $2.5 million for a 15,000-square-foot building. In keeping with the town's rural flavor, the artist's rendering of the new town hall is a Colonial structure with two stories above ground, as well as a basement for storing records. The project went out to bid in May 2006, and the project construction phase was kicked off on July 13, 2006.

But instead of proceeding smoothly, copies of letters and minutes from town board meetings show continual delays in the work, ranging from changing dimensions and measurements to materials being unavailable.

Town Supervisor Alan Grattidge detailed how the town board proceeded through a series of steps to try and work things out with the original builder.

I was trying to hold out the hand of friendship to the contractor, but he certainly let us down all the way around, said Grattidge. "It's a shame, because we waited so long and planned for this, got the financing, this contractor came in on bid, but we had to issue a default of the contract."

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