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Legislative Group Gives UConn 2000 High Marks
By Karen A. Grava
A legislative investigation into the management of the UConn 2000 program concluded that the program is well run, delivers buildings on time and on budget, and that the University has been quick to address unanticipated problems when they have arisen.
The report, issued last month by the Legislative Program Review and Investigations Committee, makes no recommendations for legislative changes in the program.
"This is confirmation from an objective source that our program is well run," says Scott Brohinsky, director of university relations. He notes that the positive outcome and the fact that there were no statutory recommendations are very unusual for this committee.
"The report is an endorsement of the judgments students and parents throughout Connecticut have been making to choose UConn in recent years," he says. "Quite possibly, UConn 2000 is the State's most successful program ever."
The committee report suggests that, for the most part, business should continue as it has been conducted: "The policies and procedures employed by the University compare well with construction management models outlined in the literature and by experts interviewed by committee staff."
The study found that the number and scope of projects taking place as part of the $1 billion, 10-year program make UConn 2000 "among the largest concentrated sites of continuous construction activity in the state."
Undertaken after the state Department of Labor found serious wage violations by subcontractors working for Capstone Building Corp., which managed the construction of the Hilltop Apartments, the investigation noted that the majority of UConn 2000 projects have been completed without significant delays or cost overruns, with safety stressed as the university's highest priority.
"Labor law compliance has been given increased attention by UConn in response to serious prevailing wage rate violations that occurred on one project last summer," the report says. "Overall, the committee staff found serious contractor performance issues have been rare in the UConn 2000 program."
Although some labor unions have complained that not enough projects have been assigned to unionized contractors, the report notes that state labor and contracting laws do not contain a union/non-union preference in awarding public works projects.
"A change in the law to give preference to unions in future work at the University is a matter of public policy for the General Assembly to determine" the report says, noting that half the projects completed had a union workforce.
The safety record on UConn 2000 has been good, the report notes. It suggests that if the University decided to give up self-insurance through the Owner Controlled Insurance Program, a full-time safety officer should be hired. But in the meantime, the University's policy and procedures for hiring contractors with superior safety ratings and for ensuring compliance with safety regulations and standards on the job site "has had very good results."
The committee did make two suggestions for improvement:
The University has agreed to adopt the committee's suggestions, Brohinsky says.
Brohinsky says the management of UConn 2000 has been broadly spread at the University, from the Board of Trustees to the president, to the chancellor, to the Building and Grounds Committee, Dale Dreyfuss, vice chancellor for business and administration, and Larry Schilling, executive director of architectural and engineering services, and their staffs. "It has been a real team effort," he says, "and real team success."