The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 20, 2005


Town Meeting
Wastewater 2005: more troubles for school plant

Carlisle School Business manager Steven Moore and School Building Committee Chair Christy Barbee surprised the small group attending last Monday's Finance Committee hearing with the news that the third lowest bidder on the school wastewater project had filed a protest with the Commonwealth Attorney General over the two lower bidders on the project.

North Atlantic Constructors of Rowley, Mass. submitted a bid of $2,194,468 to the town. J. D'Amico, Inc. of Randolph, Mass. submitted the lowest bid of $2,038,431, and PCM, Inc. of East Greenwich, Rhode Island submitted a corrected bid of $2,051,414. But North Atlantic's senior project manager on the bid, Bob Pecora, felt that J. D'Amico was not qualified to bid and that PCM had incorrectly submitted its bid, and thus filed the protest with the Bid Protest Division of the Business and Labor Protection Bureau of the Attorney General's Office.

The search for lower bids

The story goes back to the previous round of bids (see Mosquito, 12-10-04), which came in disappointingly high. North Atlantic had submitted the lowest bid at $2,180,000, higher than school officials had estimated or hoped. Business Manager Moore consulted with Engineer Paul Clinghan of Hoyle, Tanner and Associates of Manchester, New Hampshire, the system designer, and Mark Thomson of SEA Consultants of Cambridge, Mass., the project manager. Together, they reasoned, one way to potentially reduce costs would be to open the bids up to a wider group of qualified bidders.

At 13,500 gallons per day, the project is fairly small when compared with municipal wastewater treatment plants, which can run in the millions of gallons. The plant is a "package treatment plant," according to HTA's Clinghan, meaning the essential components — the two biological contactors, the clarifier and the filter — are delivered as stand-alone units. The remainder of the project consists of a building to house the equipment and plumbing to connect these units to the three pumps — one at the school, one at the treatment plant, and one at the leaching field. Accordingly, the three men felt that the bids could be opened to contractors certified in pump station construction as well as those that are wastewater treatment certified. To be certain, Thompson checked with the Commonwealth's Department of Capital Asset Management (DCAM), which agreed that pump station certified suppliers would be capable of bidding on this type of project.

The request for bids went out, and it was noted that the bids were open to companies certified in either of the two categories. J. D'Amico is pump station certified; PCM is wastewater treatment certified. But PCM submitted the wrong form in its bid package, an error that was corrected by both the town and the bidder, resulting in a slight increase in its overall bid, moving PCM from lowest to second-lowest bidder. Only $13,000 separates the two lowest bids, while $143,000 separates the second from the third.

Where do we go from here?

North Atlantic's Pecora feels that the town was in error when it opened the bids to pumping station contractors. "Less than 10% of the project is the pumping station," he said. As to PCM's erroneous form, Pecora said he was "not sure" whether his company would pursue its complaint. Business Manager Moore characterized PCM's mistake as "clerical error" and noted that the town had added an addendum form after the original bid packages went out, and that PCM had neglected to fill out the addendum. The addendum changed the cubic feet of ledge requiring removal, so the town used PCM's unit price and the new ledge removal requirement to adjust PCM's bid, dropping it to second place.

If North Atlantic is successful in its protest against D'Amico, will the bid not fall to PCM anyway? HTA's Clinghan suggested that might be North Atlantic's strategy: to make a point to the Attorney General that only wastewater treatment certified contractors should be awarded this type of project. However, Clinghan reiterated, "We feel that D'Amico, as well as any other pump station certified supplier, is capable of this type of project." SEA's Thompson agreed, noting that he had called DCAM on Wednesday and DCAM confirmed that the department "had no problem with the 'either/or' bid requirement."

Meanwhile, Moore and Barbee had no choice but to appear in front of the FinCom on Monday night to request an additional $156,000 to cover the increase in project costs should North Atlantic prevail. This does not include likely payments to the Town Counsel, who had yet not been consulted on this latest wrinkle in the wastewater saga. The originally anticipated start date of July 1, 2005 (assuming project approval at Town Meeting and on the May 31 Town Election) is likely to slip.

Darlene D'Amour contributed to this article.

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito