Pinelands Regional Board of Ed Approves $325,000 Payment to Roofing Company

By Rick Mellerup | Aug 07, 2019

Little Egg Harbor Township — The Pinelands Regional Board of Education approved a $325,000 payout to Mike Kobithen Roofing at a special board meeting held at 5:30 p.m. on Monday. The vote was 6-1, with Stephen Kubricki casting the only no vote. A.J. Barchetto, the board’s newest member, who was appointed to the board in June to replace, Jeff Bonicky who had resigned in May, abstained. Another member, Christine Palladino, was absent.

“I think this settlement is an affront to our community and I vote no, a strong no,” said Kubricki.

Thomas D. Williams Jr., who represents Bass River Township on the board, hesitated before voting. But in the end he voted yes.

“It is the best thing right now we can do at this time,” he said.

The other members voted without comment.

Not surprisingly considering the early start for the meeting – the public portion of Pinelands BOE meetings typically begins at 7 p.m. – only a few members of the public attended. It was not, as usual, livestreamed on the district’s website or recorded on video.

But one woman who did attend the meeting expressed her disgust with the settlement before the board voted.

“I was shocked to see we were paying Kobithen anything,” the woman, identified only as Karen, said. “As a parent I was literally shocked to see we’re paying anything.”

Kobithen aroused the ire of many parents in the fall of 2017 when the high school building had to be closed because of roofing problems. Students and staff reported coming down with sore throats and hives as a result of the roof work, saying so much dust was falling into D Wing classrooms that students could write their names in the dust on their desks. Parents were concerned that dust could contain asbestos, disturbed during the roofing, and complained the air was harmful, possibly contaminated with other harmful volatile organic compounds. Both the high school and the junior high were closed for several days while testing was conducted. The district’s environmental consultant gave the schools a clean bill of health, but after the high school reopened for one day, it was closed again on Oct. 12 because of heavy industrial-sized screws falling from the school’s atrium. The high school remained closed until the middle of January, forcing all students into the junior high building, with split sessions necessary to accommodate the crowd.

Many members of the public blamed all sorts of people for the fiasco, including the board of education, the administration and the since-replaced construction management firm that was overseeing all of the many construction projects taking place at the district due to a $53 million referendum that had been passed by the public in January 2017. But the main target of anger was Kobithen, and many people demanded the district hold back payments to the company.

At a Jan. 17, 2018, board meeting, Chuck Romanoli of New Road Construction, the new construction management firm, said “a substantial amount of money, about $765,000” had yet to be paid to Kobithen. It was not announced at Monday’s meeting whether or not the $325,000 payment would honor the company’s entire $5,062,000 contract. Nobody would further discuss the issue, saying the matter had not been finalized.

Rick Mellerup

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