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Change Order Prompts Debate for Mount Greylock School Building Committee
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
01:05AM / Tuesday, June 06, 2017
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The School Building Committee debated over the process and wording of a $252,000 change order related to security systems in the new school.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock School Building Committee last week voted to authorize a quarter-million dollar change order that, as written, did not sit well with several members of the committee.
 
At issue was an undisclosed modification to the $65 million addition/renovation project related to building security. Taking advantage of an exception to the commonwealth's Open Meeting Law, the committee held a one-hour executive session at the start of its June 1 meeting.
 
It then voted in public on the monetary impact of the issue it discussed behind closed doors. And although the committee did not reveal exactly what the issue was, at least one member had concerns about the process that got the committee to the point of making the change, and another member pushed for language in the motion that would have required the project to choose "the lower cost proposal" if all other factors were equal.
 
Instead, the committee voted 8-3-1 to approve a motion to accept "a change order with a cost not to exceed $252,000, subject to the vetting of the bids by our construction manager."
 
Thomas Bartels, an architect and an at-large member of the School Building Committee from Williamstown, and Richard Cohen, an at-large member from Lanesborough, both raised issues with the change order in open session.
 
Bartels pushed for adding language specifying a preference for the "low bid" in a motion introduced by Hugh Daley, who represents the Williamstown Board of Selectmen on the School Building Committee.
 
Daley declined to accept the "low bid" language as a friendly amendment.
 
"I agree 100 percent that the construction manager will make sure they're both quoting the same scope of work," Daley said in a meeting telecast on Williamstown's community access television station, WilliNet. "I guess I would leave it to the CM to maximize the value of those dollars and say that part of that vetting may yield that the lowest bid may not represent the highest value bid. I don't like saying it has to be the lowest-bid dollar value no matter what.
 
"The CM will vet the bids and deliver to the project the highest total value bid to the project -- not the highest cost but the highest total value. It may be schedule. Maybe one [bidder] can get it faster."
 
Bartels challenged that notion.
 
"I don't like this," he said. "I think our architect will review the proposals and determine that they're providing the same quality and the same quantity. What is the fuzzy 'value' thing being introduced here?"
 
Bartels, Cohen and Chairman Mark Schiek voted against the motion to approve the change order.
 
Before the vote, Cohen raised concerns about what he characterized as the "rushed" process that led to the vote.
 
"It's my understanding that the reason we have a change order is that the requirements for these security measures were not included at the time we put out the bids for the project as a whole," Cohen said. "And the reason for that may be that the transition from the previous superintendent to the current [interim] superintendent did not go smoothly or that the previous superintendent did not submit the requirements in time to be placed in the original bidding process.
 
"I'm not suggesting the full $252,000 is an additional cost but that some amount of that $252,000 is an additional cost. I think it's important that we put that in the public record."
 
Cohen further said that the June 1 vote and past issues with the commonwealth's procurement process "make us vulnerable to litigation and delays. ... It also means that we're not fulfilling our ethical and fiduciary obligations."
 
Schiek responded that the School Building Committee had a consulted its legal counsel to make sure it was complying with the procurement law.
 
"After the fact," Cohen shot back. "After I requested [a legal opinion]."
 
Schiek said that was correct and did not continue the back-and-forth.
 
In response to questions raised by Bartels, the district's owner's project manager explained that the $252,000 is covered under the project's budget.
 
Trip Elmore of Newburyport's Dore & Whittier Architects had less sanguine news about the prospect of the junior-senior high school's gymnasium coming online in the fall as previously expected.
 
As the OPM explained it to the committee on Thursday, the issue is not the renovation of the gym, per se, but the fact that the mechanical service to the gym goes through other parts of the project that will not be completed until the spring.
 
"We've run into significant coordination issues because we have an existing system in the building that we're going to abandon in April, and we'll have a new system that won't be available until March-ish next year," Elmore said.
 
The smoke and fire alarm systems, permanent power and and communications systems would need to be set up on a temporary basis while the rest of the project is completed in order to start using the gym in the fall. The addition and renovation work is slated to be finished in April in order to allow the school to move classrooms into the new three-story academic wing over April vacation and begin demolition on the current academic areas in spring 2018.
 
"Whatever we do [to bring the gym online earlier] is going to be thrown away four or five months later," Elmore said. "We're trying to get the cost comparison -- of doing what you're doing now or opening the gym whatever the cost. We will have a rough order of magnitude in the next two weeks."
 
The School Building Committee's next scheduled meeting is July 13.
 
In other business on Thursday, Principal Mary MacDonald told the committee that the vendor selected to supply lockers to the project cannot deliver them in the charcoal gray color favored by the project's design working group.
 
"They would do it for more funding and an extra four weeks," MacDonald said. "We were were looking at alternate colors, particularly the grays, and given the gray trim and linoleum tile and wainscoting, the grays from this company are pretty bleak. It looks like you're either in a submarine or in prison.
 
"So we're not going to go with the gray. The color that has risen the top is called steel blue. It's a very deep blue, similar to the charcoal gray we were looking at."
 
Meanwhile, Bartels reported to the committee looking at the possible amphitheater and parking lot are close to bringing recommendations to the full committee.
 
"I think we're zeroing in on good solutions for both," Bartels said. "There are two solutions beyond the original one for the amphitheater. There's a Plan B and C that are more natural.
 
"For the parking lot, there was an in-depth discussion. ... I think we're pretty close to resolving that and coming up with a good-looking parking lot that meets our requirements."
 
Earlier this spring, the committee voted to order designs for the two site projects from its architect so it could decide at a later date whether to add either or both back into the scope of the project.
 
That vote elicited criticism from the Lanesborough Board of Selectmen. On Thursday, Schiek read into the record a letter from the town of Lanesborough asking the school district to pay for the parking lot and amphitheater out of a $5 million capital gift from Williams College rather than using taxpayer funds.
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