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Friday, May 17, 2013
Mitsunaga Launches New Attack on Kobayashi
By Andrew Walden @ 9:53 PM :: 6457 Views :: Ethics, Higher Education

by Andrew Walden

Dan Inouye is dead and Inouye’s hand-picked University President MRC Greenwood is on the way out.  So naturally Abercrombie crony Dennis Mitsunaga senses the opportunity to displace Inouye crony Bert Kobayashi.  Here is the latest installation in Mitsunaga’ s effort to grab control of UH contracting.

BTW:  Just as with the pro-rail, anti-rail fight, the Mitsunaga – Kobayashi fight gives Hawaii just a little taste of the benefits which could be realized by reorganizing the body politic into a two-party system.  The allegations in this letter are public only because of the conflict between political factions and their allied contractors.  The public interest is served by the revelation of alleged contracting shortfalls.  As the opposing sides fight, each forces the other to improve.  If Hawaii’s political system is successfully reorganized under the control of Abercrombie as it was under Inouye, these types of revelations will cease, thus allowing a return to the bad old days of literally untold waste, fraud, and corruption.

And here is some more background:

  *   *   *   *   *

Project: University Village, Student Housing Development, Phase I University of Hawaii at Hilo

Subject: Questionable Actions and Decisions on the Project by the Construction Manager

Mr. Robert M. Yamada, III, Construction Manager, SSFM International

(SSFM) Dear Mr. Yamada,

I find your agreement with the General Contractor on several of your recent project decisions very troubling. In your position as the Project's Construction Manager, I would expect that your primary responsibility would be for the benefit of the University of Hawaii; to drive the project's construction budget and schedule for the advancement of the University and its students. Having witnessed you make or endorse the following project-related decisions, I have a difficult time believing that these were for the benefit and advancement of the University and its students:

1) Allowing the General Contractor to install UNAPPROVED. LESSER-GRADE Marlin Windows throughout the project.

a) Although the General Contractor put himself at risk by taking it upon himself to order the Marlin Windows prior to receipt of complete and approved window submittals, it was still your decision that allowed the General Contractor to install these unapproved. lesser-grade windows onto the project. This decision placed the University at risk of having to remove and replace the windows should the windows be found to be non­ compliant with the building code requirements of this project.

b) This may prevent you from obtaining a Certificate of Occupancy from the Building Department.

c) This may also prevent you from opening the facility to the students in August.

2) Allowing the General Contractor and his subcontractor to use spray painting when it is NOT ALLOWED in the Project Specifications.

a) We categorically rejected and disapproved both of the Contractor's Spray Painting Plan submittals because the Specifications clearly states that spray painting is not allowed on this project.

b) The General Contractor knowingly allowed its painting subcontractor to spray paint and back-roll the work on this project; and SSFM was fully aware, and also stated when questioned during site walk-throughs, that the painting subcontractor was spray painting and back-rolling on this project.

c) You had stated in an email response to the General Contractor that the University has a standing policy against spray painting on any of its campuses, but requests for variances can be submitted by the General Contractor for review by the University.

d) We are not aware of the University approving any requests for variances from the General Contractor or his subcontractor allowing either of them to circumvent the !!Q. spray painting restrictions in our specifications.

3) Endorsing the General Contractor's OVERPRICING for the installation of floor tiles that dictated the University's decision-making process.

a) Emails from you and your staff in response to the Student Housing Director's inquiry about the floor tile patterns in the residential units dictated to him that, based on the Contractor's pricing, he needed to accept the "checkerboard" pattern instead of the University's preferred "swirl" pattern.

b) In your email dated 22 April 2013, you stated that the flooring subcontractor would charge an additional $126.396.00 in just labor cost on top of the $241,837.00 (I'm assuming the $241,837.00 is the total cost for the checkerboard installation). This would equate to a flooring installer using a Davis-Bacon pay rate with fringe of $58.52 working for an additional 2,160 hours! That's one year and two weeks worth of hours to install the "swirl" pattern instead of the "checkerboard" pattern!

i) Was this $126,396.00 labor cost increase questioned or challenged by the General Contractor?

ii) Was this $126,396.00 labor cost increase questioned or challenged by SSFM?

iii) Was this $126,396.00 labor cost increase substantiated with a breakdown from the subcontractor?

iv) Did Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB), the University's independent cost estimator concur with this $126,396.00 labor cost increase from the subcontractor?

c) This $126,396.00 labor cost increase represents more than a 50% increase over the total cost to install the vinyl floor tile!

i) Changing to the "swirl" pattern may take a little more thinking to layout in comparison to the "checkerboard" pattern (perhaps an increase in the 5% to 10% range), but not to the magnitude of $126,306.00 (an increase of over 50%)!

ii) The floor areas of the units did not changed so there should be no additional labor charge as a result of the pattern change.

iii) Both floor tile patterns utilize full sized tiles with cuts only at walls, so there should be no additional labor charge as a result of the pattern change.

iv) Both floor tile patterns utilize the same two field tile colors and the same accent tile color, so there should be no additional labor charge as a result of the pattern change.

d) Notice of the change in floor tile pattern was issued to everyone through PCD-05 back on 12 November 2012. It is questionable why this huge labor cost increase is only being presented to the University now.

i) It was this outrageous $126,396.00 labor cost increase that was dictated to the University that made them concede to your firm's directive to revert back to the "checkerboard" pattern (email from Theodore Miller dated 18 April 2013).

ii) As a result, the University's Student Housing Director and its Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs gave up on the "swirl" pattern that they preferred and helped design.

iii) Basically, the University was given no choice but to agree to revert back to the "checkerboard" floor tile pattern.

iv) Where this bordered on a breach of contract was when SSFM asked the University's Student Housing Director during the 24 April 2013 Construction Owner-Architect­ Contractor (OAC) Meeting if he and the University had decided to go with the "checkerboard" pattern instead of the "swirl" pattern. The Director and the University confirmed their decision and it was memorialized in the response to Request For Information (RFI) #215, dated 25 April 2013.

4) Allowing the General Contractor to complete the painting of all 3 floors of exterior corridor ceilings in Building A.

a) In his email dated 24 April 2013, the Student Housing Director questioned the quality of the exterior corridor ceiling finish (the painting) and described the work in place as "cheap and unfinished".

i) When the Director asked about the visible painted tape joints, he said someone from the "SSFM staff stated that the ceiling(s) were completed with the required coats of paint."

ii) This response from SSFM surprised and scared me because, as bad as the ceiling finish appeared to the Director, the SSFM staff accepted the painted corridor ceiling finish as is and without question.

iii) In addition to SSFM accepting the ceiling finish, the General Contractor and his subcontractors also accepted the corridor ceiling paint finish because the painter was allowed to complete all three floors of Building A and was ready to proceed to the next building before receiving the Director's concerns.

iv) In any case, the drywall taping and mudding application and the preparation for painting were defective, resulting in the "cheap and unfinished" appearance.

b) The University received several recommendations from SSFM to resolve the painted corridor ceiling finish (emails dated 26 April and 2 May 2013); all but one recommendation from SSFM involved changing the paint finish from semi-gloss to flat paint as the General Contractor and his subcontractors suggested.

i) The use of flat paint on the exterior corridor ceilings as suggested by the General Contractor and SSFM is not a recommended application for protection. In addition, flat paint will reduce the durability and increase the amount of repairs required for long-term maintenance of these exterior corridors.

c) On 10 May 2013, I emailed you our response to your email asking for my "...concurrence with either option 2 or 3..." from the 2 May 2013 Brian Hill (of SSFM) email to Miles Nagata (Student Housing Director).

i) To my surprise, Option 3 to the Director also included a Change Proposal of up to $7,500 from the Contractor to the University to pay for the repainting of the corridors in Building A-- as if it was the University's fault that the exterior corridor ceiling paint finish turned out the way it did!

ii) Again to my surprise, your email to me didn't give me the chance to select "Option 1" which was to "Leave all building corridors as is with the existing NE selected finish". As it turned out, I selected Option 1 and modified it to read:

"Leave all building corridors as is with the existing NE selected finish. We strongly recommend that you and the University have the Contractor repaint all of the corridors in Building A following the Project Specifications and the existing NE selected finish at no cost to the University."

iii) I stated that it was our opinion that either: 1) the corridor ceiling surface was not prepared correctly (the drywall mud was not sanded enough); or 2) the application of the primer coat was not sufficient to cover the ceiling surface. Or a combination of both scenarios may have occurred. Regardless, the painting contractor was allowed to, or directed to, complete all of the corridors in Building A.

d) In your 10 May 2013 email response to me, you stated that you will move ahead with my recommendation and you then directed your staff to provide this direction to A.C. Kobayashi (ACK). Although this is a good result, I still question why it had to go through this process? As stated in my email response, there are several sections in the Painting Section of the Project Specifications that, if followed, would have prevented the current exterior corridor ceiling conditions experienced in Building A that raised appearance and maintenance concerns of the Director.

e) The history of this exterior corridor ceiling paint finish subject has SSFM and the General Contractor strongly recommending that the designed semi-gloss paint finish be changed to flat paint finish. The email trail from 24 April2013 shows that when the Director raised his concern that the finish appearance of the exterior corridors in Building A looked "cheap and unfinished," SSFM had by then already accepted the finish from the Contractor.

5) Deletion of the perimeter security fence and access controlled gates from the project.

a) The safety of the students is always a top priority of the Student Housing Director and his staff, and the perimeter fence was a requested item from the early design meetings; especially since the site is across from the main campus and because it was not known (and it is still not known) when the separate campus-wide security camera system would be implemented on this site.

b) In your email dated 15 April2013, you stated that the University decided to delete the security fencing, access control gates and other appurtenances associated with the fencing, all trees from the landscaping, and all appliances from the project scope.

c) The cost of the perimeter fence was already accounted for in the final project budget back in December 2012. Since we are not privy to project budget information, it's curious as to what led to the deletion of this very important feature from the project scope at this late stage.

d) For the safety and well-being of the students, we strongly recommend that the perimeter security fence and access controlled gates be reinstated into this project.

6) No submittal of requested General Contractor's Moisture Test data.

a) As a result of the heavy rainfall experienced during the early part of construction, large areas of installed wood framing members were saturated; moisture tests were requested of the General Contractor prior to the installation of the drywall due to concerns of mold growth within these wall cavities.

b) As of this letter, we have not received copies of the requested moisture test data collected by the General Contractor and submitted to SSFM. We still have our concerns of potential mold growth within these walls.

In your position as the Project's Construction Manager, I find your firm's handling of these items questionable when it comes to keeping the University's best interests in mind. The installation of unapproved, lesser grade Marlin Windows and the new bathroom venting requirements from the County's Building Inspector, if left unresolved, may prevent the facility from opening; the General Contractor is already struggling to maintain the University's turnover date of 12 August 2013 on just the base construction items.

It appears that the University has lost, and continues to lose many of its preferred design elements that they believed were finalized with the General Contractor's approved project budget to cuts in scope that are now deemed too expensive and/or too time consuming to be installed by the General Contractor in order to meet the project's construction schedule.

Sincerely,

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Gary H. Nakatsuka, AlA, Project Manager

Mitsunaga & Associates, Inc.

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