DPW facility budget could grow to $22.5 million

By Chris Maza

LONGMEADOW – After massive efforts to remove discovered asbestos-containing material on the Dwight Road site, the new Department of Public Works facility could end up costing $22.5 million.

Longmeadow Finance Director Paul Pasterzcyk estimated the figure at the Sept. 25 public forum to discuss the upcoming Nov. 5 Special Town Meeting. At that Town Meeting, residents will be asked to authorize additional bonding to complete the project.

Pasterzcyk said during the meeting and reiterated later to the Longmeadow News that a final dollar amount of additional bonding had not been determined. He noted because the town did not bond the full authorized amount in the first bond issue, the Select Board has authority to issue approximately $1 million in bonds without further approval. He added that several factors still needed to be identified and rectified between the town and Colliers International, the owner’s project manager, before he could make a reasonably accurate estimate on the additional amount to be bonded.

Tim Alix of Colliers told those assembled at Longmeadow High School that the project has incurred nearly $3.6 million in additional costs. Asbestos and site-related changes have totaled $2.9 million. Colliers anticipated an additional $695,000 still outstanding – specifically estimated delay damages sought by the general contractor, W. J. Mountford Co.

The original bond issue authorization at the May 9, 2017, Town Meeting was for $21.2 million. Due to what Alix called favorable bids, the bond in August 2018 was issued for $19.9 million. According to Pasterzcyk, when the town issued the bonds, it received approximately $1.3 million in premiums that the October 2018 Town Meeting voted to put back toward the project.

The savings was completely eaten up by asbestos remediation costs, Alix explained, and approximately $1.6 million would still be needed to complete the project. He said the goal was to “reimburse and replenish” contingency funding to $900,000 while also accounting for the $695,000 in estimated overages – notably delay damages that likely would be sought by the general contractor.

The project, which was originally slated to be completed by now, is now estimated to be done in June 2020.

Officials and consultants at the forum explained the timeline of the project and why asbestos was not identified at the site prior to the purchase of the property.

Mike Richard of Weston & Sampson, the engineering firm on the project, explained that prior to the town’s purchase of the property, the site was first subject to a non-invasive hazardous building investigation in January 2016, which consisted of a walk-through and visual assessment of the former Grande Meadows Tennis Club building for potential contaminants or hazardous building material. None was identified.

A phase one environmental site assessment was also conducted in March 2018 during which officials sought evidence of potential hazardous material – including Department of Environmental Protection and Fire Department records and an interview with the owner of the property. “In this case, we didn’t identify any. There was no environmental concerns on the property,” Richard said.

In June 2018, approximately a month after the general contractor bid was awarded to Mountford, asbestos-containing material was found underneath the tennis courts. Later, more hazardous material was found in berms along the woodline of the property. Further, while excavating the existing parking lot in July 2018, the contractor discovered more material that tested positive for asbestos buried on the site. From July 2018 to January, Colliers and the town worked with the Department of Environmental Protection on options, finally receiving approval to relocate the material.

Alix reported the project is now still in the beginning stages, but work that might not be obvious to those passing by has been taking place. Underground pipework, construction the stormwater system and filling and changing grade on the site have occurred and “rebar is going in and steel is going up.” He added the metal building is ready to ship.

Richard said an estimate that the project was 30 percent complete would be “fair.”

Resident Steve Wolman questioned where the liability lies for the asbestos and asked why the town had not sued the previous owner of the property for the total cost of the asbestos removal.

“According to the law, if you find it, you have to remediate it. [The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection] was working with us to make sure we removed it safely and quickly,” Select Board Chair Marie Angelides said. “In regards to what we can do further, we are working with our legal team to decide what is the appropriate next step, so we are working on that right now.”

Resident Tom Shea was more pointed in his remarks, accusing the Select Board and former Town Manager Stephen Crane of intentionally keeping residents in the dark.

“You expected citizens to look at board meetings, Select Board videos and to ask you if there was a problem,” he said. “You chose not to tell the taxpayers or the Finance Committee that there was a problem.”

Angelides said she disagreed with that characterization of what had occurred.

Shea also questioned the legitimacy of a $1.7 million change order in November 2018 that was not sent out to bid and was awarded to Mountford. Angelides acknowledged that the board did approve that change order award on the recommendation of Town Manager Stephen Crane and she did not know the reasoning. She said the board would talk to Crane for an answer.