Friday 14 December 2018

CETB to re-tender contract for Fermoy Coláiste extension

An artist's impression of how part of the extension Coláiste an Chraoibhin in Fermoy will look
An artist's impression of how part of the extension Coláiste an Chraoibhin in Fermoy will look

Bill Browne

When the sod was turned on the multi-million extension to Fermoy's Coláiste an Chraoibhin back in November 2015 hopes were high that it would be completed by Easter of last year.

More than a year later the €5.9 million extension is not finished with work grinding to a halt recently after it emerged the construction company undertaking the project has gone into examinership. 

The High Court's appointment of an interim examiner to the Kildare-based Sammon Contracting Group in April came about following the liquidation of the UK firm Carillion, which had hired the Irish company to build several educational facilities in Ireland. 

The news was greeted with dismay in Fermoy, raising fears that deadline for the Coláiste extension would be pushed back even further and that it may even be next year before it is finally finished and ready for use. 

However, the Cork Education and Training Board (CETB) moved this week to address the issue in a bid to ensure that work on the extension, which The Corkman understands is already more than 90% complete, is put back on track as soon as possible. 

In a statement posted to the school's website, CETB chief executive Ted Owens confirmed that. following discussions with the Department of Education and Skills, the board had taken the decision to terminate the contract for the Fermoy project with Sammon.

Mr Owens wrote that the CETB had now commenced the process of re-tendering for the completion of the project with the design team to "expedite the process to ensure the school extension would be completed".

While the statement did not say when work would recommence or when it might be finally finished, Mr Owens did say it was the CETB's intention to get the project completed as "soon as possible". 

"CETB regrets the inconvenience caused to pupils, staff and parents and will ensure to keep you updated on progress," wrote Mr Owens. 

It is understood that before work can recommence on the extension and a completion date is finalised, a thorough assessment of the work already completed will have to be undertaken to ensure that it complies with building safety standards and regulations. 

Meanwhile, Mr Owens has said that until such a time as the building is ready to occupy, the CETB will be putting temporary accommodation in place to cater for the intake of new pupils at the start of the September school term. 

The Corkman understands that rather than put additional prefabricated buildings on site at the school campus, this will revolve around refurbishment works to the former Gaelscoil building in the town. 

The premises, which was vacated in February of last year following the completion of the new Gaelscoil building at Duntahane, is already being used by Transition Year pupils from Coláiste an Chraoibhín and may also be used to house LCA pupils if the new extension is not opened by September. 

It is believed that once the new wing at Coláiste an Chraoibhín is finally opened, the former Gaelscoil building will be used as an adult education centre. Meanwhile, the issue was raised in the Dáil this week by Cork East TDs Kevin O'Keeffe (FF) and Sean Sherlock (Lab), in relation to both the Fermoy school and a similar extension planned at the St Colman's College in Midleton, where work has also ground to a halt. 

Deputy O'Keeffe said works on both projects had already been a "nightmare". 

"Now we see liquidation arise and we do not know where we are at present. Parents are writing to us and teachers are in disarray. We are wondering whether the Minister can do something to get this issue sorted,.Deputy Sherlock said the reason for raising the issue was to seek to ensure the CETB can work with the Department and all other stakeholders to ensure the tendering process needed to bring the project to completion happened "post haste". 

"In other words, that it happens immediately so we can reach the milestones set down under the previous school capital programme. At the end of the day, this is about delivering education for hundreds of students in our local area and we want to ensure they get the best possible chance to be able to do this and it is done in a timely fashion," he said. 

Education Minister Richard Bruton said he and his department were acutely aware of the frustration felt locally at the delays in completing both projects and the need for them to be completed as quickly as possible.

"That is why I want to say now that their completion is an absolute priority for my department and the CETB," said Minister Bruton. 

He said a meeting been held between all stakeholders on April 19 to determine what impact examinership would have on the projects and that as the contractor did not submit a viable plan to complete them both, contracts were terminated on May 8. 

"While this development is regrettable, our priority now is to achieve a very clear path to getting the project completed," said the Minister. 

He said the next step would be for design teams to prepare schedule of work and costings. These will be submitted to the department for consideration and approval with the Minister pledging this process would be "turned around as quickly as possible." 

"Following that, the remaining works will be tendered. I have asked that my department provide me with a critical path, and to consider how each stage in that path can be delivered as quickly as possible," said Minister Bruton.