The collapse of Tayside building firm Muirfield Contracts is “unfortunate” but does not represent a terminal blow for the controversial Arbroath schools project, councillors say.
Work on replacement schools at Timmergreens and Warddykes primaries has stalled due to the construction firm’s financial difficulties.
However, Angus councillors insisted the huge project remains on track, with agency Hubco now set to handle the appointment of a replacement construction firm.
Question marks remain, however, over the cost of appointing a new contractor.
Councillor Alex King expressed relief that Muirfield were not on site when their crippling financial difficulties resulted in the administrators being called in.
“We would have been in a far worse position if we had come to financial close and Muirfield had actually been on site,” he said.
“As it is we have only marginal exposure to unfinished contracts with Muirfield.”
Mr King said there “may or may not be further increases in cost” as the council has to go to the second contractor.
“Once we have financial close or a final price we will be bringing it back to committee,” he continued.
“One thing I will say here and now. This is a priority project and there is no question of these schools not being rebuilt.”
Members of the local authority’s policy and resources committee met at the Cross in Forfar.
They heard the council is “still waiting on firm proposals” from Hubco, with hopes that a contractor will be appointed by the end of this month.
Should the estimates for the project now at £12.2 million increase by more than 5% then councillors will be asked to approve the extra capital funding.
Fellow Arbroath councillor David Fairweather supported the report and stated “the past is in the past” with reference to the long and difficult battle over conflicting plans for Arbroath’s schools estate.
The replacement programme was born from the wreckage of proposals for an £8m “superschool” merging Timmergreens and Muirfield primaries on the Westway.
Arbroath councillor and children and learning convener Sheena Welsh said the council is “very lucky” to have encountered a delay rather than a false start with building works.
She added: “We could easily have a contract disappear four weeks into it.
“Muirfield is a contractor that we’ve used before, and it has built schools for us before.
“So, if we had been completely on our own there is a distinct possibility we would have appointed them as contractor.
“It’s very bad news for the Muirfield workers and I feel very sorry for them I feel relieved from the council’s point of view.”
Almost 260 workers and more than 100 self-employed contractors found themselves out of work last week after Muirfield collapsed and administrators confirmed nothing could be done to revive the business.
Angus Council previously announced the new schools would be delayed by about six weeks, which was “outwith” its control as the contractor is appointed by the Scottish Future Trust’s procurement agent.
The procurement phase is necessary as £600,000 of the cost will be paid by the trust.
The new-build Timmergreens would cost £4.9m and Warddykes £6.3m including £250,000 for demolition; while improvement for Muirfield, to which Timmergreens staff and pupils have decanted, will cost £390,000 along with £527,000 in “temporary accommodation” costs.
The “abortive design fees” from Hospitalfield cost £104,000 a total cost of £12,276,000.
Units at Muirfield PS may be sold off or used for future improvements at Ladyloan and Inverbrothock primaries.