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Voters to decide on additional $1.3 million in DPW funding

By Chris Maza
chrism@thereminder.com

LONGMEADOW – Residents at the Nov. 5 Special Town Meeting will be asked to approve an additional $1.3 million in bonding for the Department of Public Works (DPW) facility currently being built on Dwight Road.

The Select Board, at its Oct. 21 meeting, approved that request as part of its review and final approval of the warrant before posting.

Building Committee Chair Marybeth Bergeron initially said in a letter to the board on Oct. 18 that the Building Committee had voted at their Oct. 17 meeting to recommend an additional appropriation of $1.1 million toward the construction project. However, Bergeron and Select Board Chair Marie Angelides expressed concern at the Select Board meeting that that amount would be too low.

“I was an advocate and remain an advocate for $1.3 million, but the Building Committee voted unanimously for $1.1 million,” Bergeron said. “I think there’s some hesitancy on the part of some of the people who sit on the committee to asking the town for too much money. My position is we can’t ask them for enough on this project.”

The town initially authorized $21.2 million in bonding for the DPW project at the May 2017 Town Meeting. Additionally, the application of $1.35 million in bond premiums to the project was approved at the October 2018 Special Town Meeting, brought the total approved funding for the project to $22.5 million. As of Oct. 17, the anticipated cost for the construction was $19.5 million. Adding the cost of the land, total spending on the facility itself is estimated at $22.1 million. However, additional anticipated asbestos remediation work carries a cost of approximately $600,000. Bergeron also advocated for replenishing the contingency fund for the project, however, she stressed the committee did not support her personal opinion.

Bergeron and Interim Town Manager Jay Moynihan pointed to the volatility of the circumstances surrounding the project, unknown additional expenses and the widespread nature of the asbestos issue as reasons to consider a larger amount.

“It appears as though every time we put a shovel in the ground over there, we’re finding things we don’t want to find,” Bergeron said. “I hate to say it, but it’s almost like throwing a dart … I hate to be speaking against the entire committee, but I do think you need to consider a higher number.”

Angelides reported during her chair’s report earlier in the meeting that the town and contractors are “still working” on the asbestos issue on the site of the future home of the Department of Public Works on Dwight Road.

“As we dig in areas, especially around drainage, we’re finding more, so that’s still being worked on,” she said.

She added the town was likely “looking at some sort of limitation on the site” as a result and noted the town was working closely with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection on a daily basis as well as its own legal team.

Finance Director Paul Pasterczyk said he “would probably have to go with Marybeth’s gut feeling,” adding, “$1.1 [million] might be cutting it short and I’d hate to have to go back to town meeting for additional funds for the umpteenth time.”

Selectman Richard Foster also noted, “If it’s not spent, it’s not spent. All change orders are being run through proper channels, the estimates are being scrutinized probably more than any other job that the town has ever had to this point. So I feel fairly comfortable they’re doing the best they can do with a really bad, bad situation … We were dealt a bad deck of cards on this.”

He later added, “Strip out the asbestos and we’re right back in full budget. Everything would be green lights.”

Moynihan agreed and refuted the suggestion that the project was poorly managed.

“In many respects, at this point, I think it’s very, very well overseen, but the site is tough,” he said.

Bergeron supported those claims, stating nearly all of the contingency funds originally approved for the project were expended on asbestos removal.

Among the uses for the additional DPW funding would be the addition of a Clerk of the Works for the project. Moynihan suggested adding the position to have more on-site oversight.

“This is a construction project that is going to be, assuming the appropriations improve, somewhere around $22.5 million. There is no designated Clerk of the Works on-site,” he said. “It’s taxpayer money – $22.5 million, there’s a lot happening on the site [and] there’s a lot going to be happening over the next few months and to have a presence on-site – at a minimum part-time, but is on-site every day and who is reviewing the work of the contractors and sub-contractors, accounting for them on-site, being there in case there are questions with regards to changes … would mean that the town would perhaps be well served by having somebody there.”

Bergeron added that both the DPW and Adult Center projects should have a Clerk of the Works. Moynihan estimated the cost would be approximately $75,000 or $70,000 and therefore roughly $35,000 would come from the DPW budget. Bergeron said there was money in the original appropriation for the Adult Center.

Colliers International, the owner’s project manager for both projects, is providing some Clerk of the Works services and is coordinating the work, advocating on behalf of the town relative to keeping the project moving, according to Moynihan, but they are not providing day-to-day Clerk of the Works as part of their contract.

“Clearly, I think, if we had a Clerk of the Works prior to this period of time, that would have been beneficial. That being said, once Colliers was awarded the second contract for the Adult Center, that is when they started sending someone to the site and he is there for a few hours each day at both sites,” Bergeron added. “I have to say I have been very impressed with the reports he issues on a daily and a weekly basis … I’ve been very impressed with his thoroughness. He attends all of the construction meetings. I’m not sure the town needs to spend the $80,000 even though, as Jay said, under a municipal project it would have been prudent to have one on-site specifically for the DPW from the get-go.”

She added that having a Clerk of the Works could “provide some level of comfort for the town” and noted that even without asbestos issues, construction projects face challenges and delays. Moynihan said having someone on-site regularly would also help provide clarity when there is a “multiplicity of contractors on site.”