Select Board responds to DPW change order flap

By Chris Maza

LONGMEADOW – Select Board Chair Marie Angelides insists the town’s response to asbestos containing material at the site of the future Department of Public Works facility on Dwight Road made the most sense for Longmeadow and stressed the town’s actions were legal.

Questions were raised publicly regarding nearly $1.8 million in change orders related to the preparation and removal of asbestos containing materials at the site. The board at its Dec. 3, 2018 meeting approved that change order. Resident Tom Shea asked the board at multiple public meetings for an explanation as to why the work was awarded to project contractor W. J. Mountford and not put out to bid.

In a prepared statement, Angelides said the asbestos removal was not put out to bid because it would have prevented Mountford from working on the site, delayed the asbestos disposal process even longer and “would not guarantee lower cost.”

W. J. Mountford won the bid for the construction project – including site preparation – in May 2018 and initially discovered asbestos-containing material under the courts in the former Grande Meadows Tennis Club building and along the tree line approximately one month later. In July 2018, additional asbestos was found underneath the asphalt parking lot. According to Angelides, W. J. Mountford moved the material into piles in order to continue working, a move approved by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP).

MassDEP subsequently presented the town with three options for removal of the asbestos. The first called for the material to be removed and relocated to a landfill in Ohio. According to documents from the Dec. 3, 2018 Select Board obtained by the Longmeadow News, the estimated price for that option was nearly $4.2 million. A second option was to re-bury the asbestos under the parking lot at a cost of $1.8 million. The third option, which was recommended by former Town Manager Stephen Crane and owner’s project manager (OPM) Colliers International and approved by the board by a 4-1 vote, was to remove the asbestos containing material and relocate it to the landfill on Tina Lane. While W. J. Mountford’s initial cost estimate for that option was nearly $2 million, the price was negotiated down to slightly less than $1.8 million.

During the Dec. 3, 2018 meeting, Tim Alix of Colliers International told the board burying the material on the site did not provide significant financial relief and posed difficulties for any future projects, such as utility work, on the site. It was also noted given the time of year and soil conditions, putting the material at the landfill was a quicker, more viable option. Selectman Richard Foster also noted the landfill would need to be capped regardless. The lone dissention was from Thomas Lachiusa, who voiced concerns regarding the landfill’s proximity to the Connecticut River and the prospect of catastrophic flooding sweeping the material into the river and ultimately out to sea.

The board ultimately approved the change order, which allowed W. J. Mountford to remove the asbestos containing material.

Angelides stated, “To remove the contractor from the job of preparation of the site and to rebid the site preparation separately from the construction would have been costly to the original contract. Mountford was performing well under the contract and working with us on costs as the preparation of the site became more complex. There is no legal limitation on the size of a change order. Removal of asbestos material and storage is a project that is still occurring today. This is not a time-limited project and the scope goes beyond the initial change order. Currently, the asbestos that is found is being disposed of on-site under the supervision of DEP.”

She continued, “The town performed in a fiscally responsible manner and the choices made have been reviewed and approved by counsel. The designers, Weston and Sampson, and the OPM, Colliers international, reviewed the change order proposals from Mountford and found them to be reasonable when compared to estimated costs if bid independently.”

Due to the asbestos issues on the site, voters will be asked to approve additional bonding to complete the project.

Residents approved a bond issue of $21.2 million and W. J. Mountford’s original bid on the project was for 19.9 million. However, Alix explained at a recent open forum that the project has incurred nearly $3.6 million in additional costs. Asbestos and site-related changes have totaled $2.9 million and an additional $695,000 in delay damages sought by W. J. Mountford have been estimated.

Finance Director Paul Pasterczyk has noted the town still has authorization to bond an additional $1 million without further approval because the original bids represented savings.