Gleason Library septic work under-funded

by Karina Coombs

At the September 10 meeting of the Board of Health (BOH) a status update on the septic tank upgrade at Gleason Library revealed the project was under-funded by approximately $20,000.

After experiencing a problem with the septic system in April of 2012, other system flaws were identified and Gleason received an estimate for repairs in the amount of $34,000 from the engineering firm of Stamski and McNary, Inc. The library then requested and received these funds from April’s Town Meeting with the passage of Article 19. After a public hearing on May 14 the upgraded system design was approved by the BOH and work was slated to begin in August.

“Why isn’t this done?” asked Chair Jeffrey Brem when Gleason Library Director Katie Huffman and Board of Trustees Chair Steve Golson appeared before the BOH. Golson explained that bids for the work went out between mid-June and late-July with the work set to begin shortly thereafter. Only one bid was received but in the amount of $52,000. “We had $34,000,” explained Golson.

Golson contacted the engineering firm that provided the initial estimate and was told it had made an error. “[Stamski and McNary] said, ‘We didn’t know this was a Prevailing Wage job,’” said Golson. The Prevailing Wage Law sets minimum wage rates for Massachusetts public works projects with higher rates than those typical for a residential project. The firm agreed a more accurate estimate of the project at these rates would be closer to $50,000. Huffman later noted that the higher wage requirement raises the cost of the project by 50%.

The board was visibly surprised by the error and asked how the engineering firm could think the library did not qualify as a municipal project. Golson repeated that it had been an error on the part of the engineering firm and explained the library did not have the money to make up the difference.  

Golson said the library trustees would be meeting shortly and would have a discussion with Town Administrator Tim Goddard about next steps. “Do we go to Town Meeting or to the Selectmen?” said Golson. “You’re talking about a whole year delay,” said Brem, explaining the BOH could issue an emergency order to obtain funding sooner. Huffman said the timeline would no longer work, because fall was the busiest season for library patrons. August had been specifically chosen as the least busy month said Huffman.

The BOH voted to issue a new permit for the current septic system until the end of August 2014 and asked Golson and Huffman to work with Goddard to get additional funds and get new bids out right up until the next Town Meeting. Work would be done in August 2014.