- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 28, 2003

The District has fired the contracting firm hired to renovate the Department of Motor Vehicles’ inspection station in Northeast, adding months to a project that was supposed to be completed last month.

The Department of Public Works terminated its contract with HRGM Inc. on Aug. 26 for defaulting, a move that could push back the opening of the station to April. The company had been hired to remodel the DMV inspection station on the corner of West Virginia Avenue and Mount Olivet Road NE.

“We had a problem with the contractor’s timetable for work, but the good news is things have been going well at the Southwest inspection station, where they have eliminated the long lines,” said Herbert R. Tillery, deputy mayor for operations.

The project manager for HRGM — who declined to give his name — confirmed in a phone conversation yesterday with The Washington Times that “the contract has been canceled.”

The Times first reported in its Aug. 1, 2002, editions that D.C. officials hoped to reopen the Northeast inspection station in “July 2003” after a $7.5 million renovation.

Last year, the Times reported that lines a half-mile long awaited D.C. motorists at the city’s only operating inspection station at 1001 Half St. SW. That station continues to inspect about 17,000 cars a month.

The DMV has provided inspection service for the city’s nearly 250,000 registered vehicles at Half Street since April 1999, when the West Virginia Avenue station was shut down for renovation.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams promised a speedy turnaround on renovating the inspection station after complaints surfaced in reports by The Times.

Kevin Green, the project manager for public works, said the contract won’t have to go through another bid process.

“The process is, when we terminated the contract, we went to a surety bond company, and they will determine what is in the District’s best interest,” Mr. Green said.

He said the surety company — an insurance company that issues bonds to contractors to ensure that the work is completed — could review the other companies that also bid for the project and select one of them to complete the renovation.

“Or they could decide to do it themselves,” Mr. Green said.

“We are waiting on them to make a decision, and after that, the project should be no more than 90 days from completion.”

This is not the first D.C. contract on which HRGM has defaulted.

The Times reported last month that the District fired the construction firm for defaulting on a contract to renovate Tenleytown’s Engine Co. 20 — a century-old fire station designed for horse-drawn water wagons.

That project has been delayed indefinitely. The move to cancel the contract has led to “inadequate” fire and emergency medical services for neighborhoods in upper Northwest, said an official from the city’s Office of Contracting and Procurement.

Tony Bullock, spokesman for Mr. Williams, called the situation “unconscionable.”

“Both of these projects are a top priority for the city … this has a huge impact on our ability to deliver services,” he said.

The city has worked with HRGM on contracts before, all of which were completed. City government sources said the firm may have overextended itself by bidding on numerous contracts at once, thus leading to the current problems.

He said the extended timetable for the completion of the projects is only one hurdle for the city.

“Not only do you get a problem for rebidding, but it also affects the other contracts like plumbing, electrical and computer workers, who have to go in when it’s done,” Mr. Bullock said.



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