DPW project hampered by delays, costs

By Chris Maza

LONGMEADOW -Rising costs and delays in the construction of the new Department of Public Works facility will be a major topic of conversation at an upcoming public forum.

Select Board Chair Marie Angelides said the board plans to host the public forum to discuss the status of the DPW project as well as other issues expected to be on the November Special Town Meeting warrant. The proposed date for the forum is Sept. 25.

At the Select Board’s Sept. 3 meeting, Marybeth Bergeron of the Building Committee confirmed the discovery of more asbestos, prolonging an expensive issue that has plagued the project since first ground was broken in July 2018.

Angelides confirmed that the approved contingency funding for the construction has been exhausted and residents would be asked to approve additional funding.

While she did not anticipate having an official number for another 10 days to two weeks, she said the estimated extra cost was $1.7 million.

She also said the board was awaiting an updated estimated completion date for the facility, which will be pushed back to 2020.

“We have been having weekly construction meeting and recently we have asked for daily updates. At our last meeting, I asked for an estimated completion date and was told we would have a better idea at the end of the month,” Angelides told the Longmeadow News. “We have been following closely the asbestos remediation, which started last fall and has caused delays. The costs should finally be set and the final numbers should be complete by Sept. 25.”

She later added, “The two times to make a decision would be this fall or at the Town Meeting in the spring, so we are going to the town now to let them known what’s going on.”

Angelides also noted she wanted to have “as many of the principals available as possible” and, if necessary, the date of the forum could be pushed back until October to make that happen.

Voters approved the $22 million proposal to build the DPW facility on the former Grande Meadows Tennis Club land in 2017 and broke ground in July 2018.

Asbestos was found on the site in multiple locations has required multiple dips into the project’s contingency funds.

Speaking at the Sept. 3 meeting, resident Tom Sheacriticized the board for its lack of communication with residents on the repeated snags and escalating price tag and demanded a comprehensive update.

“I think the Building Committee has flagged this issue on numerous occasions and has been full disclosure. I believe the DPW yard is needed,” he said. “I think the transparency with the taxpayers has been woefully inadequate in terms of disclosure, fiscal responsibility and just basic telling people what’s going on.”

In addition to the DPW facility, Angelides said the cost of the microburst, additions to the town charter, the capping of the town landfill and a new bylaw will be discussed.

“All of these things are all coming together at the same time,” she said.