Rockport’s Limerock Street to close in preparation for blasting, construction
ROCKPORT — Members of the Rockport Select Board voted unanimously May 13 to close Limerock Street to allow for the first phase of construction at the site of the new Rockport Public Library, 1 Limerock. The closure is expected to take effect immediately, as excavating equipment will be placed at the location. The board also discussed a draft version of a contract with Phi Builders who were selected to construct the new facility.
Street closure, schedule of blasting
Construction fencing has already been erected at the 1 Limerock St. lot where the new library will be built as well as the adjacent Memorial Park – where parking spaces will be created.
On May 13, the stump of a large tree was visible, having been recently felled as part of the project. In his Town Manager’s report, Rick Bates said because of the proximity of the project to Russell Avenue, the sidewalk along that street will need to be closed for the duration of the project; the south end of Limerock Street will be closed to all pedestrian and car traffic during construction.
This week, work will begin on a stream which runs along the edge of the 1 Limerock property, and office trailers are soon expected to appear at the site.
Ground blasting is to commence the first week of June in order to remove ledge and make room for future construction. Bates said that impacted homeowners will be notified within the next week via certified mail, asking their permission that the company conducting the blasting, Maine Drilling and Blasting, can create a photographic record of their property before the work occurs.
“The blasting will take place the first week of June. This is not the type of blasting like you see on TV where rocks fly in the air. Maine Drilling is the best company in the State of Maine. They are taking a conservative approach. The blasting will take 8-10 days, because they will be doing smaller charges, this produces less of a ‘bang’ rather than having one big bang, to do the whole thing in one charge,” said Bates.
The blasting will be followed by a period of excavation, which should last a week. The structure’s foundation is scheduled to be poured the third week of June. The board discussed the possibility of postponing the closure of Limerock until after the Memorial Day parade, but voted unanimously in favor of the closure to maintain the project’s construction timeline. The war memorials in Memorial Park will be open to members of the public on Memorial Day.
Construction contract with Phi Builders
At their Monday night meeting, members of the board discussed a draft form of a contract with Phi Builders, the firm selected on May 1 to construct the new Rockport Public Library. The town negotiated a construction contract with Phi Builders with a price for the library building not to exceed $2,971,344, and in accordance with the drawings and specifications that were sent out to bid.
The parking component of the project is expected to be included in the $3.5 million budget for the entire project. Additionally, Phi has been contracted to complete work stream work along the property at a cost of $20,000, and updates to the intersection of Limerock St. and Russell Ave. at a cost of $225,000.
Phi had previously served as the project’s owner’s representative prior to bids from other contractors being received and declined by the town for being over budget. Phi was approached by the project’s architect, asking if Phi could do the job for $2.9 million, as the company had estimated the new building’s cost would be.
Phi confirmed that, and the town manager then informed the Select Board, which asked Phi, in late April, if the company was interested in doing the job, for the $2.9 million price.
Phi then resigned its role as owner’s representative.
Members of the board expressed concern about a provision to the contract which would alleviate financial burden from Phi in the event that government tariffs were imposed on imported steel. Bates said the potential provision had been sent to him by attorney Asha Echeverria of the Portland-based law firm Bernstein Shur.
“There was some provision in the contract that if we do get into exceedingly high increases as a result of tariffs that there would be some acceptance of that exposure on the part of the town. [Phi] would like us to consider having something like that in the contract,” said Bates.
“I think it’s an event that’s beyond our control –the price of steel. If the price of steel goes up dramatically, I think that what the [Select Board] will have to do at that point is come back and look at the project and find the cost someplace else....I don’t think we can ask the contractor to shoulder that whole part of it,” said Chairman Ken McKinley.
“I understand that, but I don’t think we can ask the taxpayers to do so when we have a limit and a budget on how much we said this library is going to cost. I think that’s absolutely unacceptable. So I think that would put us in a position where we ‘re-scope again,” said Select Board member Debra Hall.
Selectman Jeff Hamilton said that the price of steel fluxuates each year based on construction demand regardless of potential government-imposed tariffs, and warned against placing multiple contingencies into a contract which the board “worked very hard to get a fixed-price bid on.”
He pointed out that the provision also mentioned gypsum in addition to steel. Hall said that the project’s guaranteed maximum price, which the town had agreed upon with Phi, was not represented in the draft version of the contract.
“Phi is mobilizing at this point, and they’re doing that with the good faith that we’re going to have a contract [with them.] So the question at this point does this start to hold that up,” said McKinley. Hall said she would work with Echeverria to review future drafts of the contract. The board agreed that to move forward with any provision made for increases to the price of steel, it would be necessary to determine what percent of the project’s budget was represented by steel.
The next meeting of the Rockport Select Board will be held Tuesday, May 28, at 7 p.m. at the Rockport Opera House.