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Mount Greylock Track Bids 40 Percent Over Estimate
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
05:44AM / Friday, September 15, 2023
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock Regional School Committee on Thursday looked at how to make $1.3 million in cuts that will be needed in order to bring the middle-high school track and field project in on budget.
"Unfortunately, the bids came back nearly 40 percent higher than we had estimated," District Business Manager Joe Bergeron told the committee at its monthly meeting.
"What that means is we needed to go back and figure out both what happened as well as how we can move forward, if at all possible."
The district has in hand $3.5 million, the remainder of a $5 million capital gift from Williams College, a $100,000 grant from the town of Williamstown's Community Preservation Act funds and the authorization from both member towns, Lanesborough and Williamstown, to borrow up to $800,000 toward the athletic facility project.
That adds up to $4.4 million.
"Our end goal is, if we can rein in $1.2 million or $1.4 million, we'd be back in the ballpark of $4.3 million to $4.4 million in total cost," Bergeron said.
The district put the project out to bid in July, and a couple of weeks ago, officials had yet another round of sticker shock when they opened the bids, with the low bidder coming in $1.3 million above the estimates the district had from its architect.
"The estimating world is extremely difficult right now," said John Hickock of CHA Consulting Inc. "The cost of things is just crazy."
After the bids came in higher than expected, the district's Field and Track Committee met with its consultants at CHA and Skanska USA to develop a list of "value engineering" items that could be removed from the project in order to bring down the cost.
The School Committee will have a chance to approve those reductions from the project at a special meeting scheduled for Tuesday.
If it does so, the district could still have shovels in the ground this spring and keep the project on track with the timeline envisioned this summer.
"The silver lining is the advantage of going out to bid in the summer … is [late September] is when we were originally thinking we'd go out to bid," Bergeron said. "The timeline would be to have people using the facility by spring of 2025."
Aaron Singer of Sanska later told the School Committee that was why the project manager pushed the district for the earlier bid.
"We'll still have market interest from contractors next time if we put it out to bid," he said.
Several School Committee members expressed dismay that the athletic field project once again yielded higher-cost bids than expected from contractors.
"Let's be frank," Jose Cosntantine said. "It sounds like we're left with mud on our face. We worked really hard to get buy-in from our communities to rally around this project. This is a difficult message to send them: that we're nowhere near, at the moment, to making this project happen."
The Field and Track Committee, which has a special meeting on Friday to finalize the list of value-engineer items, hopes that the district will be closer to building a new facility on the west side of the Mount Greylock campus.
The list of features on the chopping block Thursday included two big ticket items: an irrigation system for the multi-sport field inside the planned eight-lane track ($550,000) and the removal of bleachers and a pad for the installation of bleachers and a press box ($520,000).
Julia Bowen asked why the items on the list made it through the last round of value engineering, before the project was sent to bid.
"I don't know if it's 'mud on our face,' per se … but I'm trying to square the fact that we've already gone through the value engineering steps, and bids came in high and now we're trying to cut cost," Bowen said. "What is a truly significant change to the quality of the project? How did we find another $1.4 million to cut?"
Singer explained that one of the huge cuts was irrigation, and omitting it from the project will make it more difficult — but not impossible — for the district to maintain playable soccer (and potentially football) field for late August and early September use in years (unlike the current year) when rain is scarce in July and August.
Bergeron said that items like the bleachers and press box already were add-alternates in the project that was sent to bid, but removing them from the scope of the project entirely will "simplify" the bid for prospective contractors.
And the newest version of the project, while it removes irrigation, does include a provision that pipes for irrigation be laid under the track so if the district decides to add it at a later date, it can do so without tearing up the track.
"It would cost more in the future if we [added irrigation or bleachers], but, at the same time, the irrigation and bleachers and press box were big-ticket items that we knew we could exist without and students could benefit from having all the rest," Bergeron said. "This is just trying to push us forward. It's not ideal, but we still believe the project is very worthwhile."
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