Council delays bid selection for pavilion
In its first meeting of 2012, the Town Council faced the prospect of selecting from a tsunami of 16 bidders the contractor who will rebuild the John. C. Rembijas Memorial Pavilion. But neither the councilors, who hadn’t studied the bids, nor the town administrator, who hadn’t prepared a recommendation, were ready to tackle a discussion on the bids – which, in many cases, were much higher than the expected cost to build the new pavilion.
The council met on Jan. 3 with one councilor, Bob Bowen, being absent. The construction bids, which respond to the specifications in a solicitation advertised last month, don’t break out costs on a line-item basis – prompting Councilor Ellen Winsor to raise concerns.
Public Works Director Mike Gray explained that the bidders didn’t furnish any breakouts because they weren’t requested in the first place. Gray added that they weren’t requested because the pavilion’s design is simple and straightforward.
According to the “lump sum” estimate from Andrew Yates – the winning architect in the design competition – rebuilding the pavilion would cost about $390,000. Yates’ estimate includes $50,000 for a metal roof with a “patina green” finish, but the lowest bid among the 16 submitted was $463,000, said Town Administrator Bruce Keiser. The highest bid was $850,000.
Keiser said he was surprised by the range of the bids, pointing out that “three were below $500,000, six or seven were in the $500,000 to $600,000 range, and there were a couple in the $700,000 to $800,000 range.”
Keiser added that the specs allowed for town discretion to replace the metal roof with an asphalt roof. He also noted that there hasn’t been any breakthrough in the negotiations with the town’s insurance company – the Interlocal Trust – on the reimbursement for the pavilion’s loss in a February 2011 snow storm.
Interlocal Trust remains adamant that it won’t pay more than $198,000 – which would be the cost to rebuild the structure without the reinforcements necessary to meet current code for buildings in flood plains.
To meet current performance code, the pavilion will have 28 cylindrical “footers” (with 30-inch diameters) poured to a depth of 12 feet, with steel columns sunk into, and bolted to the tops of, the footers. Additionally, because the caisson rig required to set the columns could damage the existing slab, a fresh slab will also be poured (presumably after demolishing the old one).
Gray assured the council that Yates kept the number of columns (previously 40 of them) and the volume of wood in the timber trusses (by spacing them further apart) to a minimum.
Whether or not the negotiations with Interlocal Trust increase the reimbursement, it’s clear that the Fort Getty Reserve Fund – which stands at $315,000 after the town used $55,000 of the account to help rebuild the Fort Getty boat ramp – is at risk of evaporating if all or most of the remaining funds are used to build a pavilion to current code.
Winsor said the “problems with the piecemeal approach that the council is using for its Fort Getty decisions are becoming evident,” arguing that it would be valuable to see cost breakouts for all of the bids. She also questioned the logic of spending “half a million dollars on a building that brings in $10,000 a year.”
Because the solicitation didn’t specify breakouts in the bid submissions, the town doesn’t have any legal basis for requesting them now. Moreover, speculated Gray, some of the high bids may reflect “inexperience” or an overabundance of caution on the part of some bidders. He also said that Yates’ efforts to keep the structural elements at the bare minimum were a good example of “value engineering.”
Gray was referring to comments from resident Mary Meagher, who said that “value engineering” is indicated whenever “you have [cost submissions] exceeding the budget.” But Meagher wasn’t proposing a review of structural elements alone. Rather, she hinted that the town should also review other cost drivers – such as size and location – as well.
In fact, Meagher pointed out, the permit to rebuild the pavilion is a Coastal Resources Management Council “maintenance permit” available for grandfathered structures. Meagher said it was ironic that the town is asking CRMC to demand meticulous wetlands restoration at the PBH Realty property at Beavertail when “[CRMC] would never allow us to build [a totally new pavilion] within 26 feet of a coastal feature.”
“To build it [beside the water] just because we can,” Meagher added, “is concerning.”
The vote to rebuild the pavilion at its original location was 3-2. Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero noted that, if the council were to scrap all of the bids and reconsider the specs, only the three councilors (Bowen, Bill Murphy and Mike White) who were on the majority side of that vote would be allowed to revise the original specs.
But Meagher argued that the town should hold back its decision if it doesn’t reset altogether. “Remember what [resident] Derek Hansen said when he presented the town with a petition signed by 475 people [asking for a more thoughtful and inclusive process for Fort Getty decisions]. He said the [signatories] were saying, ‘Don’t rush this.’”
(During the meeting, the only reason offered for a “rush” would be constructing the pavilion in time for the “events season,” which starts in late May – although a concrete pour during winter adds to its cost.)
Town Administrator Bruce Keiser said that he and town staff will spend the next two weeks reviewing the bids, and that he will offer the town’s recommendation at the Jan. 17 meeting. Keiser also provided an update on the status of wind-turbine studies that will be presented to the council for its final decision on the proposed Taylor Point turbine. The updates are:
• Consultant Harley Lee has contracted a meteorologist to evaluate the wind energy gathered so far with a sodar unit set up at Taylor Point. The meteorologist says his preliminary extrapolation indicates that the average wind speed – 6.5 meters per second – at the site is “slightly” less than the 6.7 predicted by the feasibility study submitted to the town in 2010. (It remains to be seen, however, what that difference will mean in terms of revenue for the town.)
• Lee has hired a subcontractor to prepare photo simulations of a wind turbine sited at Taylor Point. (Whether the town builds a large 1.65-megawatt turbine or something rated at less than 500 kilowatts, the structure would still be around 400 feet high because it would positioned as high as possible without violating Federal Aviation Administration restrictions.)
• Lee has hired an electrical engineer to prepare a preliminary estimate of the interconnection costs between Taylor Point and the North Road lines feeding the substation at McQuade’s Marketplace. (National Grid, which would eventually run the numbers to set the fi- nal cost, has guesstimated that the tab could be as high as $2 million.)
The initial photo simulations and interconnection cost estimates will be presented to the council at its Jan. 17 meeting. “We should have a pretty good idea of the economic and visual impacts from a turbine by the end of February [by which time the initial estimates will be buttoned up and any additional pictures requested by the council will be submitted],” Keiser said.
In other business, the council:
• Learned from Winsor during her liaison report that the Conservation
Commission wants to discuss with CRMC a Bowen proposal to reduce the classification for the waters around the Fort Getty pier and boat ramp from its current Type 1 (meaning fully protected) to some lower number. Because he wasn’t at the meeting, it’s unknown if Bowen still wants a reduction to the lowest designation (Type 5), as he has previously said, or some other level.
• Learned from Keiser that the CRMC has set a June 1 deadline for the wetlands restoration work to be completed at the PBH Realty property.
• Learned from Murphy during his liaison report that the Buildings and Facilities Committee is reviewing all of the various problems at the recreation center.
• Accepted from resident Barbara Ritter a letter which argues for a “compromise” on the RV campground at Fort Getty. The letter also says, “There can be only one reaction on driving to Fort Getty in the summer – a gasp, followed by the thought, ‘How can we allow such a desecration of a beautiful spot?’”