EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 29, 2013

Kannan, Zanni quarrel over credit for high school project

METHUEN — Mayoral challenger Jennifer Kannan says Mayor Stephen Zanni is trying to steal credit for changing the high school contractor that actually belongs with the previous administration of William Manzi and the committee overseeing the project.

Zanni said the accusations of taking undue credit were untrue and pointed to his negotiations on a deal with the new contractor and his efforts to avoid potential legal action in early 2012 when the former contractor was let go.

City officials balked when cost estimates of the project from Dimeo Construction, of Providence, jumped roughly $6 million.

“Billy handled it professionally. There were no lawsuits. He laid the ground work when he left,” Kannan said of Manzi.

Zanni said the decision was made as Manzi’s final term was ending, leaving him the heavy lifting when he took office in January 2012. “We were at an impasse,” he said. “This was not going anywhere when I took office. At the end of the day, I negotiated the contract with Consigli.”

Additionally, he said Dimeo was threatening to file a request in court for an injunction against terminating the contract. He said the injunction was avoided after discussions with Dimeo.

“At the end of the day, where does it stop? It stops with the mayor,” Zanni said. “Who would it be if something had gone wrong?”

Kannan said the original project budget was built and approved by Manzi, the Building Committee and the City Council. That budget, and the original agreement with Dimeo, allowed the city to terminate the contract if the cost or the schedule changed dramatically.

“I don’t think one person should be thinking they’re the only one who can do this,” Kannan said. “I think credit is given to a whole group. One person should not be taking credit.”

On Oct. 22, state Treasurer Steven Grossman and Jack McCarthy, executive director of the Massachusetts School Building Authority, visited the high school to promote the project and the MSBA’s role in renovating schools across the commonwealth.

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