Martin pool contractor, North Hempstead at standoff over overflow system

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The plans Gramercy Group received in February for the gravity overflow. (Image courtesy of Michael McKenna)

The system that kicks in when a pool gets overfilled with rain is at the center of a dispute between the Town of North Hempstead and the Clinton G. Martin pool contractor.

The Town of North Hempstead provided full plans for a new overflow system in February and did not plan to pay the contractor, the now bankrupt Gramercy Group, for what Gramercy Group said would be “several hundred thousand dollars” worth of work.

But the saga of the overflow system dates to December 2017, when Gramercy Group was in the midst of the pool repairs.

Recent letter exchanges between the Town of North Hempstead and Gramercy Group, conversations with the contractor’s lawyer and contract documents chronicle the dispute.

When Gramercy Group was retained as the pool repairs contractor, the pool had an existing gravity overflow system, Gramercy Group’s attorney Michael McKenna said.

“The water would overflow into a gravity drain system that would then flow out to a manhole and just go along with the storm water,” he said.

The town’s original plans called for existing pipes that were part of the system to be demolished, he said, so Gramercy Group did so.

In December 2017, the contractor asked the town for guidance; piping the contract wanted installed looked as if it was supposed to connect to the pipes that the contractor had demolished, McKenna said.

The town then issued a change order in January 2018 asking Gramercy Group to create an overflow system that would drain to a sump, he said.

In a letter dated March 1, 2019, Commissioner of Public Works Paul DiMaria pointed to two pages in the original plans, which featured the pipes that had been demolished, saying that they were supposed to have been installed and that the contract outlined this from the start. That was the first time Gramercy Group ever heard anything about the intention of those plans being an installation, McKenna said.

In the March 1 letter, DiMaria also said that the sump drain was meant to be temporary. It would work as an overflow system while the town found a new solution, he wrote.

“In no way would anyone with construction background believe that draining a public pool into a small basement sump in this facility would be a superior (or even a satisfactory alternate) design to what was originally intended,” DiMaria wrote.

The town never called the sump drainage system a “work around” when it provided the change order, McKenna said.

“There is no correspondence, no email no nothing that backs up that this was some sort of temporary or work around thing,” he said. “The pool wasn’t going to open until June. It’s not like you have to temporarily have a system in there.”

The pool opened in July 2018 with the sump drain system. Seven months later, in February of this year, the town issued a plan for a gravity overflow system that it wanted to replace it with.

What we believe is Mr. DiMaria started to have concerns that if there were a power failure and this happened and that happened … that the water could somehow back up out of the sump pump and flood the equipment in the equipment room,” McKenna said. “As a result, in November of last year he said, ‘Oh I want now to put in a gravity overflow system.’”

To do so, Gramercy Group would have to take out already installed work, which “comes at a price that is estimated to be several hundred thousand dollars,” Gramercy Group President Vincent Parziale wrote in an April 30 letter to Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth.

“We believe Mr. DiMaria had second thoughts but had no more budget,” McKenna said.

DiMaria said the original contract did not omit any aspect of the system, pointing to the 12-inch pipes and storm water line, in his March 1 letter. The town also never approved the sump systems installation but rather asked for a “pricing and feasibility review,” he wrote.

The town is now withholding $1.3 million for what it considers unfinished business, including the gravity overflow system, and Gramercy Group claims an additional $1.5 million in unpaid debts.

The story will now play out in Bankruptcy Court.

Gramercy Group declared bankruptcy May 17 and sued the town less than a month later seeking more than $2.8 million for the combined $1.3 million withheld and $1.5 million it says is unpaid.

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