Friday, December 3, 2004
$2.2 million wastewater treatment bids shock town
Construction of a wastewater treatment plant at the Carlisle School will likely be delayed once again, as bids received Tuesday were 50% higher than anticipated, with the lowest at $2.2 million. The Special Town Meeting scheduled for next Monday, December 6, was to have considered a request under Article 3 for funds to begin the project, but at a meeting Tuesday night, the Selectmen were reluctant to go forward, with Chair Tim Hult saying, "This [amount] just doesn't pass the common sense test."
As currently bid, adding a 15% overrun contingency and other costs, the project would total around $2.6 million. School Building Committee Chair Christy Barbee noted that HTA, the engineers on the project, had led her committee to expect bids around $1.5 million. Barbee was not optimistic that an error in the bidding would be found. Of six bids, "everybody bid the same way. . . The project seems to have added costs over the months we've struggled with [the plans]." A year ago, the plant was expected to cost considerably less. The Fall 2003 Town Meeting approved $1,278,918, an amount that was found to be inadequate as the plan progressed.
As the bids had been opened only hours before, the committee was unprepared to report where the process went wrong. HTA has been asked to provide an explanation. Barbee hypothesized a number of project changes, including re-siting the road, requiring subbids, and changing the timeline to require much winter construction may have inflated the price. The cost of construction materials has also risen over the year since the plan was first drawn up.
The Selectmen questioned whether a further delay would endanger SBA (state School Building Assistance funding) which is expected to provide 60% reimbursement. Carlisle School Business Manager Steven Moore said he had not yet "shared with them this development," but Selectmen Chair Tim Hult felt the state would be sympathetic to a delay. "It's their money too," he said. Added Deb Belanger, "They'll want you to do some due diligence. I think they'll be partners in this."
Moore cautioned, "It's possible that the process (of due diligence) will add to the cost" rather than save money. However, David Trask speaking unofficially for the FinCom, noted that the committee "would have great reservations about this [going forward immediately]. I think our support would be highly questionable."
Hult then asked each Selectman to offer an opinion on whether to charge ahead with a request at Monday's Town Meeting or delay, possibly until Spring Town Meeting. The Selectmen were unanimous that the vote should be delayed, with Doug Stevenson suggesting leaving the door open for the time being in case the engineers return with a compelling reason to go forward.
The Selectmen will meet Monday at 6:00 p.m. to make a final decision on the Article 3 request before Town Meeting at 7:00 p.m.
© 2004 The