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NSP lures lots of contractors

January 20, 2010
BERLIN — More than 150 people attended a meeting for contractors interested in taking part in the city's Neighborhood Stabilization Program construction projects. The crowd was a surprise to organizers.

Before the meeting City Housing Coordinator Andre Caron said they were hoping for 20 to 25 contractors.

"We have to make sure we have enough capacity," he said.

Capacity, however, won't likely be a problem: the seats in the city hall auditorium were filled and men stood lining the walls on three sides. People stood on the landing outside the doorway trying to hear what was going on inside, and Mr. Caron had to go upstairs several times to make more photocopies of handouts.

One contractor said he saw contractors from several counties. It was a testament to how badly people need the work, he said.

Contractors from as far away as Concord had called to ask about the program, Mr. Caron said, which has $2.5 million that has to be spent by September 9.

"It's a large amount of money," he said. "A lot of stuff is going to happen rather quick."

The work will include plumbing, roofing, windows, electrical, demolition, carpentry and just about everything else, he said, and it all has to be done by March 9, 2012.

There are more than 50 apartment buildings that will be renovated by the city and TKB Properties, the private developer in this public-private partnership, Mr. Caron said.

Kevin Lacasse, of TKB Properties, showed photos of the buildings they intend to rehabilitate at the meeting. Many of them will require a complete renovation, he said, and will likely require either one large contractor or several smaller contractors. There are lead, asbestos and radon issues in many buildings, he said, and 18 separate items that have to be addressed for each property.

Some of the properties will be rehabilitated, Mr. Caron told the crowd, and some will be demolished. In order to bid on projects, he said, there are a several forms each contractor has to fill out, but otherwise it's the city and TKB Properties that will do most of the paperwork.

The contractors will be working for a private company, not the federal government, he said, so it isn't true they will have to wade through piles of paperwork in order to bid on the federally funded projects. People had been comparing this to working for the Bureau of Prisons, he said, and that isn't the case at all.

"All you are doing is you are going to obey the laws," he told the room full of contractors, and sign three forms.

Mr. Lacasse said the only requirements are that the contractors have insurance, fill out an application, and that their business is registered and in good standing with the Secretary of State, if they are doing business under any name other than their own.

The contractors will help rehabilitate the properties and improve their energy efficiency, he said, to address the blight in the affected neighborhoods. They want to get the properties back on the tax rolls, he said, prevent foreclosure and arson and create affordable housing. It will be very simple for any contractor who wants to bid to get approved, he said: they even have insurance to offer those without it.

Mr. Caron said before the meeting some people around the city were hoping bids would be awarded to local contractors, but that depends on how local contractors bid.

"These are federally mandated low bid jobs," he said, and the city can't choose to select a higher bid local contractor over a out-of-town low bid contractor.

Still, local contractors have an advantage because they are local and won't have to pay to house workers, he said. "Since they're in town they should be competitive."

Besides, he said, the bid process allows the city to do more work for less money. It can be both positive and negative.

The city will likely receive plenty of bids for projects if last week's turnout is any indication. That is good, Mr. Caron said, because the deadlines are tight, and they don't intend to wait to get started: "The first contracts will be signed by February," he said, and the work will begin shortly after.

Littleton Chmber
Martin Lord & Osman
Varney Smith
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