"As far as I'm concerned, this HUD thing has been mismanaged since day one," added Commissioner Randall L. Aiken.
Fluge, Aiken and several other commissioners were upset about questions raised by a Prospectville contractor, William Farne, who submitted the low bid last month to build foundations for the 20 houses at $5,800 each, or $116,000. Despite the bid, the Abington Housing Development Corp. awarded the contract to another firm, Thomas & Sons Inc., which bid $6,800 per house, or $136,000.
The awarding of the contract was questioned by Commissioner Bud Hannings, who said the housing corporation's decision was a mistake.
Township engineer William Kalkbrenner said he recommended that Thomas & Sons be awarded the contract because Farne did not enclose a list of previous jobs his firm had done that would have shown he was qualified to perform the work. Kalkbrenner's assertion was backed by Bill DelGesso, a consultant to the housing authority.
Farne, however, insisted that he had submitted a list of qualifications to the housing authority. "I've been grossly mistreated," he told the commissioners. Farne also said he was upset by the housing authority's decision to change specifications that originally required a performance bond to be submitted with the bid. Farne contended that the other firm could not obtain such a bond.
No official from Thomas & Sons was at the meeting and available to comment.
Deborah H. Rendon, the township's acting assistant manager, said the bid bond was waived because it was difficult for firms to get such bonds on the short notice required by the housing authority.
At the end of a meeting that lasted more than five hours, the commissioners voted early Friday to have Police Chief William J. Kelly, the township's acting manager, investigate the bidding and awarding of the contract and report back to the board.
This isn't the first problem the commissioners have had with the housing project. In August, several commissioners complained after the township's housing authority purchased four lots for the housing project from E & A Builders Inc. for $58,500. The purchase was made on Aug. 7, but earlier that day, E & A had purchased the four lots from another firm for $32,000 - meaning that, in a matter of hours, E & A had turned a $26,500 profit in its dealings with the township's housing authority.
In other business, the commissioners voted, 13-2, to require the historic Keswick Theater to meet township building and safety codes by installing smoke and fire alarm systems and repairing an aging sprinkler system. The owners of the Keswick in recent years had shown boxing matches on closed-circuit television without such safety measures, township officials said.
Richard L. Gustafson, one of three co-owners of the Glenside landmark, said that the sprinkler system hadn't worked in 40 years and that repairing it wold cost about $30,000. He said he didn't know whether the owners would be able to afford the repairs, adding: "We may just throw it on the market."