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Bids are low for new nursing home construction


March 18, 2010
OSSIPEE — Here's some good news for taxpayers and county nursing home residents: Construction bids for the new county nursing home came in low.

On Monday, Randy Remick, President of Bonnette, Page, Stone Corp., of Laconia, told the Carroll County nursing home building committee that about 95 percent of the bids have been collected and that the prices look "fantastic." Groundbreaking may occur in about two weeks.

"The good news is we had a tremendous bid day," said Remick. "We had a huge outpouring of interest from people and we are solidly within budget."

In one example, the bid for site work was awarded to Andrews Construction of Campton for a total of $986,640 and the county had budgeted $1.1 to $1.2 million for that job. Andrews Construction was the low bidder out of a field of 14. The county commission also awarded a fire suppression job to a New Hampshire company.

"I wish we could have taken some of our local ones but they were far higher," said Commission Chair David Sorensen. "We couldn't justify taking the higher bids for just Carroll County because there are more coming in."

Because of the low bids, there should be ample money to include features that would otherwise be cut, the contingency fund can be larger than previously budgeted, and the bill for taxpayers will likely be less than expected.

In December the county delegation, a group of 14 state representatives, had approved up to $23.5 million for a new 103 bed county nursing home to replace the dilapidated Mountain View Nursing Home. BPS has given county commissioners a guaranteed maximum price of $23.2 million. By fall, the commissioners will know how much money they will be able to save while still including discretionary items.

"We've got a very comfortable cushion at this point," said Commissioner Chip Albee on Tuesday.

Now, it's possible to include several items that would have otherwise been cut. Those include brick around the bottom perimeter of the building and windows in more bathrooms.

Mountain View Nursing Home Administrator Sandi McKenzie stressed that some of the savings should be used to install tracks for lift systems into every bedroom. Lift systems help the staff move patients who have mobility problems. Lifts are connected to tracks on the ceiling. The goal is to put the track components into every bedroom and than install lifts as needed. The cost of adding lift systems is unclear because they haven't gone out to bid.

Building committee members, including Delegation Chair Betsey Patten (R-Moultonborough) agreed with McKenzie that tracks should be put at the top of the priority list.

Other features like bathroom windows could be added pending the costs for lifts and other items that haven't gone to bid.

Delegate Robert Bridgham (D - Eaton) called for some restraint. He said the committee should be careful not to add anything to the project that was not in the final design.

"We told folks this is what we're going to build, I think it would be a mistake to add to this design," said Bridgham. "What we don't add (in cost) we can give back to the people."

Remick replied that the elements being discussed were included in the final design but were slated to be cut first if the construction bids were more pricy than estimated.

Because of the savings, the contingency can be increased from $800,000 to about $1.2 million, said Remick. Contingency money would be used if the project hits any unexpected snags.

Delegate Ed Butler (D-Hart's Location) argued the contingency shouldn't be increased because it would end up getting spent as a slush fund. To keep the cost from escalating, the county ought to bond less than the entire $23.5 million, he said.

But building committee members said it was too soon to make that decision. It would be better to wait until after construction begins because ledge and other problems could eat into the contingency fund.

Committee members seemed to agree that bricks around the bottom of the perimeter of the building would protect it from being damaged by stones that lawn mowers would kick up.

Windows in the bathrooms would be an aesthetic choice. Butler indicated he would be comfortable with allowing the commissioners to include additional windows if the project came in more than $1 million under budget. Bathroom windows are estimated to cost about $90,000.

Additional good news is the county has received two grants totaling $400,000 for the installation of wood pellet boilers and underground piping to get the heat into the new building. Originally, there was $60,000 in the budget to pipe the heat from the old nursing home building to the new facility. Now, that money will come from the grant. The remainder of the piping grant ($140,000) can be used to pipe heat from the old nursing home to the county administration building.

Finance Manager Kathleen Garry said she received a very good quote on the tax anticipation note of just less than one percent. She expects the short and long term financing interest rates will also end up being very low.

Building committee members seemed to agree that fundraising could offset landscaping costs. In July, delegation members decided a 501c3 organization should be formed to raise $2 million to offset the cost of the bond. On Monday, building committee members said it might not be legal or practical for a 501c3 to raise money to pay the county's debt and that it would be better to fundraise for improvements like landscaping.

"It was an ill-conceived position to take in the first place," said Albee of the delegation's original fundraising idea.

In related news, BPS and EGA Architects, of Newburyport, Mass., have agreed to work for a fixed price rather than a percentage of the construction cost. Critics of the commissioners had been saying that the former arrangement would allow BPS and EGA to run up the price in order to boost their bottom line.

Commissioners also said they will not be hiring a clerk of the works to oversee the process because a construction project of this size would require more than just one person. Oversight will be done through BPS, EGA, and the state fire marshal's office. Independent consultants will be brought in for the commissioning stage when all the facility's systems (such as electrical and plumbing) are tested.

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