2012-01-19 / News

Contractor chosen by council to rebuild Fort Getty pavilion

Narragansett Dock Works was awarded contact after submitting lowest bid of 16

The Town Council this week awarded a bid to launch the reconstruction of the Col. John C. Rembijas Memorial Pavilion. It is almost exactly a year since the structure collapsed in a powerful snowstorm, but it now looks likely that the replacement will be built in time for the start of the 2012 season at Fort Getty.

The motion to award the $463,238 bid submitted by Narragansett Dock Works passed by a 4-1 vote during the council’s Jan. 17 meeting. The company’s bid was the lowest of 16, with the others ranging all the way up to $850,000.

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser advised the council to accept the Dock Works bid in a memo, which pointed out that even this lowest bid would drain most of the Fort Getty improvement fund, leaving it with only $51,248. That is largely because the town’s insurance company, the Interlocal Trust, still refuses to reimburse the town a penny more than $198,747 – or the amount of money it would cost to rebuild the structure exactly as it was when originally built in 1979.

Because the pavilion sits in a flood plain, it will need structural reinforcements to comply with current code. Keiser told the council that he and Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero are “reviewing the town’s options,” which suggests that they may advise the council to pursue a legal remedy for the situation.

If so, it wouldn’t be an extraordinary step because the fine print in the town’s insurance policy covers changes in building code. But Keiser and Ruggiero will have to weigh the risk of funding a lawsuit that the town could still theoretically lose.

In his recommendation to accept the bid, Keiser noted that the council could adjust the reconstruction cost by voting against the option for a metal roof, which would save $24,112. The council allowed that specification to remain in place, but left off the table the potential addition of two other options mentioned in the solicitation: a fire pit ($36,993) and granite benches ($22,279).

Prior to the vote, resident Derek Hansen asked if building the replacement on the adjoining hill – and out of the flood plain – would have saved the town money.

The hill was preferred by Town Council President Mike Schnack and Councilor Ellen Winsor, But Public Works Director Mike Gray said that the base of the hill was still within the flood plain, and that the expense of grading for a 120-by-40-foot pad, along with wheelchair access, would have offset any savings gained by shifting the location to the hilltop.

The lone vote against the bid was cast by Winsor, who has previously questioned the decision to rebuild the pavilion before the council decides on the future elements of the park. This time, she also questioned the wisdom of building a nearly $500,000 pavilion which brings in only $10,000 a year in rental fees.

Schnack responded that the town was basically building a “family room” for the town. He also pointed out that the original structure, which served Jamestown for 30 years, was built without any cost to the town while subsequently providing some annual revenue.

At the outset of the meeting, Winsor welcomed for an alternative energy presentation an entrepreneur, Jason Ethier, who has developed a proprietary, “ultra-micro turbine architecture” intended to replace small heating systems while co-generating electricity. Ethier’s turbine proposal won first place the Global Startup competition held by the Kauffman Foundation, which selects for sponsorship innovative technologies holding commercial promise.

Ethier needs a test site where he could field-test the “beta” version of the prototype he is building and, to that end, he met on Jan. 18 with Jamestown Arts Center officials to discuss the suitability of his microturbine to replace the building’s boiler. Winsor said that Ethier entered the Kauffman competition at her suggestion, and that she had asked him to address the council because there are three municipal boilers – one at the rec center and two at the schools – that also need replacing.

“Jason will need to assess the power needs at those buildings, as well as the ability of his microturbine to meet their specific energy requirements.” Winsor said. “It’s important that we not overpromise and under-deliver. And the Jamestown Arts Center’s old boiler needs to chug along until the prototype for them is built – with the subcontractors lined up and the anticipated venture capital funding received. But the opportunity and promise for Jamestown of Jason’s co-generation heat and power innovation is at hand.”

Winsor told the council that Ethier has been pledged $500,000 in venture capital to help him launch his company and perform his research, adding that the councilors should be aware of the opportunity to install advanced and extremely efficient energy technology in the town buildings requiring boiler replacement. Councilor Bill Murphy told Ethier that he should return to council chambers “when you have [the latest] prototype built and a proposal for us.”

In other business, the council:

• Agreed to endorse the proposal from the Water Resources Protection Committee to shift its responsibilities to a technical committee that would operate under the umbrella of the Conservation Commission. The proposal still must be reviewed by Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero as well as the commission, which would formally present the idea to the council.

• Voted to award a $19,750 contract for engineering services related to the proposed bike path. Bike Path Design Committee Chairman Bob Sutton told the council that the work was necessary to serve as the basis for permit requests that will be submitted to the state Department of Environmental Management.

• Voted to appoint Police Chief Ed Mello to serve as the executive director of the Harbor Commission.

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