Friday, May 27, 2005
Additional $1.3M for wastewater plant approved RecCom protests poor aesthetics, possible odors
Voters approved additional construction funds for the school wastewater treatment plant Monday night, though as expected, the project no one loves had its share of comments.
Christy Barbee, Chair of the School Building Committee, gave a brief summary of the project's long history. Construction costs including materials and labor have risen since previous funds were approved in 2003. "We don't think it's going to get any cheaper," she cautioned.
Mark Spears of the Recreation Commission then gave a short explanation of the group's view of the project. While they are not opposed to the wastewater plant, he said, they are opposed to the current site near the Banta-Davis playing fields, as well as the cinder block exterior of the building. "We would like to see it go forward, but we would like to put something around it to make it more acceptable than a wastewater facility." He said the aesthetics of the building site remain the biggest issue for Rec Com, though he hoped the issue could be resolved with the building committee.
The treatment plant's location is in the heart of a beautiful recreational facility off Bedford Road, he said, whereas the previous site, on the hill near the school, was hidden from view. Spears pointed out that even though the project was put out for re-bid this year to save costs, the new site had "minimal or no economic savings" over the previous site.
Barbee acknowledged that savings from moving the building and eliminating the access road on the hill have been reduced. Increased construction costs over the last six months, new engineering design work and bidding costs, and the recent contractor bid protest all reduce the savings from moving the plant to Banta-Davis. She said the building could probably be made more aesthetically pleasing, but it will take more money. There should be little to no odor around the plant because of filters, said Barbee in response to another question from the floor.
Questions about the costs of the system also came up during the meeting. Operating costs are estimated to be about $54,000 a year including materials and labor with a licensed operator, said school Business Manager Steve Moore. If no state reimbursement is received the tax impact of the project is about one percent on taxes, decreasing to about 6/10ths of a percent after twenty years said FinCom Chair David Trask, making an estimation on the spot. But with the 60 percent reimbursement that is expected from the Massachusetts School Building Authority deducted from the project, the tax impact would be much less said Trask.
The vote for $1,326,716 must be followed up by a majority vote on ballot question number one on Election Day next Tuesday for construction to proceed.
Meanwhile, the building committee remains confident that J. D'Amico, the construction contractor who gave the low bid for the school wastewater system, is qualified to do the work. Another bidder, North Atlantic Coastal Region Constructors, protested the low bid because they said D'Amico is not certified for wastewater treatment systems, only for pump station construction.
Engineers on the project advised the committee that the project could be opened to pump station contractors when it went out to bid. The 13,500-gallon a day system is less complex than a municipal treatment plant with the majority of the job of constructing the small building, pumps, pipes, valves, controls, and sewer force main essentially pump station work. The wastewater treatment part of the project involves installing pre-made and pre-assembled treatment components in the building.
Barbee sent a letter to the state Attorney General's bid protest office on Monday, responding to the dispute. "The Town confirms its decision to solicit bids from contractors certified to construct either wastewater treatment or pumping station projects...We request that North Atlantic's bid protest be dismissed so that the Town can award the project to J. D'Amico."
The state will determine if there is cause for a hearing and advise the school.
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