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Williamstown Fire District Shifts to CM at Risk Model for Fire Station Project
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
05:37AM / Thursday, March 21, 2024
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — After disappointment in the response to the Fire District's first request for bids, the Prudential Committee on Wednesday decided to go with a different method to find a contractor for the Main Street station project.
By a vote of 4-0, the committee opted to put the project out to bid under the construction manager at risk model.
Earlier this year, the station was put out to bid under the "design-bid-build" model, the other process allowable under Massachusetts law for a project this size.
That request for proposals yielded just one bid, for $18,936,159, from Allegrone Construction.
The district had been operating with an estimated cost of between $16.5 million and $17 million for the station, which will replace the district's aging and cramped facility on Water Street.
Bruce Decoteau, who advises the district's Building Committee on the project, said there is enough money in the budget to go a little over the $17 million construction estimate (district voters authorized up to $22.5 million for the total project, including soft costs). But the $18.9 million bid was seen to be too far in excess of the estimate.
On Wednesday, Decoteau and John Benzinger of the district's owner's project manager, Skanska, said that while searching for a CM at risk, the district can proceed with a value engineering process that hopefully will bring costs down — a process that can continue even after a CM is named.
"Allegrone wanted to negotiate, but we can't legally do that," Benzinger said, referring to the commonwealth's procurement process under design-bid-build. "With a CM at risk scenario … we can value engineer with them. It's just a lot different playing field than a straight Chapter 149."
Benzinger said based on his communication with other professionals in the field, the district could receive four to six CM at risk candidates.
"I'm fairly confident we will [have candidates]," Benzinger said. "There's a group of firms out there that don't like to do hard bid work. Consigli is an example. It's not how they want to conduct their business. It's very cut throat. They'd rather be in a negotiated situation where they can be a partner with the owner."
Under a CM at risk model, the construction manager is a general contractor, who receives a fixed fee for their services and delivers a building for a guaranteed maximum price.
Decoteau and Benzinger told the Prudential Committee, which held a joint meeting with the Building Committee, that the change to a new bid method ought not throw off the station's construction timeline to a large degree.
The CM at risk could be on board by late June and, hopefully, shovels would be in the ground some time in September, Decoteau said.
"It's going to delay us getting into the ground until early September, which still works if we can get foundations in the ground and do steel and framing through the winter weather," Decoteau said.
A couple of value-engineering changes were discussed specifically at Wednesday's meeting: switching from a metal roof to asphalt shingles and changing the entry way from terrazzo flooring to polished concrete.
Prudential Committee members David Moresi, Alex Steele, Lindsay Neathawk and John Notsley participated in the single-item agenda special meeting.
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