Boston's best and worst contractors of 2008

Boston's best and worst contractors of 2008

by Mike Walker

In addition to our nationwide list, here are the Boston contractors who have earned the distinction of being the best or worst in the Boston area.

The Best

Barrett Tree Service East Inc. | Somerville, Mass.

It seems the cliché “the apple never falls far from the tree” was made exclusively for Trumbull Barrett. Not only does he spend 80 hours a week dangling from branches, but so does his brother. His father? He worked in a lumberyard. “You might say that sawdust runs in my veins,” he says.

Barrett might have a genetic predisposition for loving lumber, but there’s clearly more to it than that. Customers say he’s knowledgeable, friendly, honest and responsive. “He was a no-nonsense, down-to-earth guy,” says customer Heidi Schmidt of Malden. “He was absolutely great.”

Schmidt’s comments — and her glowing report — illustrate and echo other customers’ experiences. Since opening his tree service business in August 2007, Barrett’s Tree Service has received 43 “A”-rated reports, 19 of which were nominated for the Pages of Happiness. Barrett says achieving an “A” was easy. “Honestly, it’s as simple as returning phone calls and e-mails,” he says. “We try to make it a very simple customer experience. That seems to work well.”

Mike Richard Plumbing & Heating Services | Waltham, Mass.

After 13 years of working as a machinist, Mike Richard decided it was time to find a job where he could meet people. So, he took a job with his brother, Jim Richard, owner of Jim Richard Plumbing & Heating Inc. Along the way, he picked up a few tips about good service from his brother. Since opening his own business in August 2006, Mike Richard has built a reputable business with 23 “A” reports and nine Pages of Happiness nominations in the past year.

“I try to be honest with my customers,” he says. “I give them a fair price, quality work and I show up on time. It’s just the little things that keep people happy.”

Those little things added up to a positive experience for Joanne Wright. “He was quick, responsive and responsibly priced,” Wright says. “He did exactly what I wanted him to do.”

Millennium Alarm Technologies Inc. | Leominster

Oftentimes the companies that offer the best price don’t necessarily have the best products or service. But customers say that’s not the case with Brian Catino, owner of Millennium Alarm Technologies Inc. They say his price and service are unbeatable, a combination that’s fueled his business on referrals for home security systems. “When I go into a job, I look at it from a customer’s standpoint,” Catino says. “I’m not trying to sell, sell, sell.”

Customer Richard Ow viewed that philosophy firsthand. “I really liked working with Brian,” he says. “He was very courteous, on time and didn’t try to sell me a new alarm system when I just needed additions to the existing system.”

Approaching the job from a homeowner’s perspective has been in part responsible for Catino’s “A” rating, which he’s solidified with 22 “A” reports and 13 Pages of Happiness nominations since November 2007. Customer Jennifer Wismer says it’s easy to understand his success.

“Honestly, it’s like talking to a friend,” she says. “I feel absolutely secure in the advice he gives me. He’s the nicest guy.”

The Worst

Tim Keddie Contracting Inc. | Litchfield and Nashua, N.H.

Tim Keddie, owner of Tim Keddie Contracting Inc., has a long history of civil lawsuits successfully filed against him by customers and building suppliers for performing shoddy roofing work and failing to honor warranties, according to court documents. Now, he faces multiple criminal charges.

Litchfield police arrested Keddie in June after he didn’t show up at a civil hearing for a case brought against him by a window company accusing him of not paying for supplies. Upon reading the arrest warrant, Keddie allegedly threatened to rape the wife and children of the judge who had issued his warrant, according to court documents.

The New Hampshire attorney general indicted Keddie on a charge of Harm of Threats to Certain Government Officials after his alleged remarks to Judge Thomas Bamberger. As of press time, the jury selection for Keddie’s trial was scheduled for this month. Keddie’s lawyer didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.

New Dimensions Construction | Easton, Mass.

Homeowners say Dennis Bartel, owner of New Dimensions Construction, used his respectable appearance and demeanor to lure them into paying hefty deposits for services he failed to begin or complete.

Bartel has amassed more than 21 criminal larceny cases against him since 2002 for his business practices, according to court records.

He spent 2008 behind bars after being found guilty in seven of those cases and sentenced to five years in the Bristol County House of Correction. As of press time, the court dates for his remaining larceny charges haven’t been set.

Paula Tsitsopoulous of Brockton says Bartel took about $30,000 from her and never completed framing work. “I can’t even put [my feelings about him] into something you can print,” she says.

Bartel’s attorney, Thomas Pyne, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Metro West Painting Contractors | Waltham, Mass.

In July, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley won a $50,000 civil judgment against painter Dino DiStefano for defrauding at least 21 customers out of more than $145,000, often under the alias “Tom Longo.”

According to the attorney general, DiStefano operated under three business names — Metro West Painting Contractors, Sudbury Perfection Paintings and New England Contractors — and allegedly took deposits from customers for work he often failed to complete. The attorney general says he used the alias to avoid detection.

Previously, Hyde Park residents Michael and Seri Horner won a $100,000 civil case against DiStefano after hiring him to do painting and grouting work while they were on vacation. When they returned, the Horners say they found their kitchen in disorder, with only a little work completed and some of their tools missing. “He’s quite the con man,” Michael says. “He swindled us out of $20,000.”

In a separate case in June, a jury found DiStefano guilty of larceny in Middlesex County. During the trial, defense attorney Matt Thompson said medical problems and bad weather prevented DiStefano from completing work. DiStefano was sentenced to two-and-a-half years of probation.