ROCKPORT — Members of the Rockport Select Board voted unanimously April 29 to reject the two remaining bids from contractors who offered estimates to construct a new Rockport Public Library at 1 Limerock Street. Shortly after this decision was made, the board entertained an offer from the project’s owner’s representative, Phi Builders, to potentially change their position to act as the project contractor, erecting the structure at a cost below budget.
The bids two bids rejected were from Blane Casey Building and Bruce Laukka, Inc., both of which came in upwards of $300,000 above the town’s proposed $3 million budget for the library building.
The bids were received by the town on April 18, along with a bid from The Penobscot Company, which since withdrew from the bidding process.
In addition to estimates for the library structure, the contractors included estimates for parking spaces, intersection work and work on a stream bank on the property.
In rejecting the bids, board members spoke Monday night of their disappointment that none of the bids submitted were within budget, and acknowledged the fact that moving forward, various cuts to the buildings design or amenities would be unavoidable in order to have it built within budget.
The initial bids also made no accommodation for potential change orders. Chairman Ken McKinley said that there were two options for the project in light of the high bids.
“We can continue with the bidding process, with these two bids, and work with the owner’s rep to get these bids down to budget, or the board could vote not to accept any of the bids, make some changes to the project and send it out to bid a second time,” said McKinley.
“Personally, it’s very disappointing to me how this bid process went because everyone knew our budget was $3 million,” said Selectman Doug Cole.
“Listening to other contractors in the area...they were skeptical that we were going to be able to achieve these numbers because of their building background,” said Selectman Mark Kelley.
Board member Debra Hall moved to reject the remaining two bid packages for the library project. Her motion was seconded by Cole, and passed unanimously by the board.
“I think this is the first step in a process of moving toward getting the library built within budget,” said McKinley. “I remain committed to getting the library built. This is a process, and I believe we can still get this built with a start time of this summer. By voting for this motion I am in no way saying this will not get built and not get built in a timely manner.”
A $1.5 million bond was approved for the library project by Rockport voters last year; a remaining $2 million is being raised by the volunteer fundraising group the Rockport Library Foundation.
Hall stated that the town’s bond counsel advised the board that the $1.5 million bond approved by Rockport voters for the project implied that the structure needs to be built according to the same design and at the same location (1 Limerock), and that the money needs to be spent within 18 months in order to avoid penalties or fines from the Internal Revenue Service.
Last year, the board chose Rockport-based Phi Builders and Architects to serve as owner’s representatives for the project. Their duties included working with the engineers Gartley and Dorsky and the project’s architect, Steve Smith, to provide a cost estimate for the project before it was sent out to contractors for bid. As part of their contract, Phi Builders would not participate in the bid process as a potential bidder.
Present at the April 29 meeting were Bettina Doulton and Charlie Frattini of Phi Builders.
Hall asked the board if Phi could resign from its position as owner’s representative to offer a bid as a potential contractor for the construction of the library.
She referred to an estimate offered some time in the past by Phi that the library could be constructed for $2.97 million. She added that the board was not obligated to send the project out for multiple bids again.
“I think the most important thing as we have this conversation...I on behalf of Phi, we will do whatever we can to help, but as your owner’s rep we didn’t orchestrate a bad bid so we could get this job,” said Doulton. “If that comes back and my integrity or my company’s integrity is questioned, that’s going to be a little rough for me....That said, as you’re owner’s rep and committed to doing the best we can for our client, [Frattini] and I will do the best we can starting now to shift gears and figure how to get your [estimate for the project] where you need it to be.”
“This is a surprise because we didn’t expect this and no portion of this was generated by Phi,” said Frattini. “Phi is very confident that $2,971,344 – which is what I submitted as an estimate prior to the bid so we would all understand where the bids would come in – we’re confident and stand behind that number, and we know that building could be built for that number.”
Frattini went on to say that the $2.97 estimate could also include parking work, a section of the overall project which had been estimated separately by the other contractors at additional cost.
Frattini and Doulton asked the board to give them some time to consider the decisions made that evening by the board, and offered to meet with the Select Board the following week or week after to provide them with a new estimate for the project as contractors.
The meeting ended with the Select Board deciding to meet with Phi tomorrow afternoon, April 30, at 5 p.m. at the Rockport Opera House for a workshop, at which Phi would report to the board as owner’s representatives to discuss with them steps forward having rejected the previous bids.
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