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Bean Hill drainage problems more extensive than anticipated

Project may have to wait as costs increase

August 11, 2010
NORTHFIELD — Plans to repair Bean Hill Road may be put on hold another year after selectmen received a price estimate exceeding the dollar amount the town has set aside for the project.

Each year since 2004 the voters have approved anywhere from $50,000-75,000 to be set aside in an account specifically for Bean Hill repairs. Last year at town meeting they allowed for $80,000 to be appropriated in order to bring the account up to $265,000, the price of an estimate received three years ago. Selectmen had hoped to begin the roadwork this year but were recently informed that bigger drainage issues with the road were found. Water coming down the hill is greater than originally thought, requiring both an above ground and underground drainage system similar to one installed on Zion Hill Road.

"That seems to be the big difference in the construction costs now. We're working with the state though and want to build this road right so it lasts 25 years or more," said Chairman Steve Bluhm.

As a result of this price increase selectmen requested the engineering firm for the project, Quantum Construction Consultants, seek alternative ways to get some of the more critical work done while the rest of the funding is sought.

QCC engineers divided the work into two phases in hopes the project could move forward. Phase 1 in their new plans would address major drainage and culvert issues along the road while Phase 2 would require more costly relocation of utility poles and redesigning the road from a "Y" back to a "T" intersection where it meets Route 3. Resurfacing plans call for grinding the road, re-laying it with ground materials, a fabric overlay and a final paving. The town is short $78,000 for Phase 1 to begin this year at the new estimate of $343,000.

"The big problem is even with the money we received this year we don't have the one-third needed for the job, so we may have to push this to next year," said Bluhm.

Because Bean Hill Road is state-owned, the town will need to contribute one third of the cost for reconstruction, with the state contributing two-thirds of the expense. Once the work is complete Northfield would take over full ownership of the road.

"When we first started this, it was 80-20 (in state matching funds). It could be 50-50 before it's done," Bluhm said.

James Bouchard of QCC said breaking the project into two phases would make the entire project cost approximately $1.4 million.

"If you were to do the work all at once it would cost about $1.3 million," he said.

Bluhm said later he would ideally like to have the job done all at once as it could save the town approximately $100,000.

"That money could help with the purchase of a new police cruiser or other things in town. It'll all be up to the voters in the end though, which way we do this," he said.

Bouchard told selectmen the bidding climate in today's economy was seeing contractor prices sometimes 17-22 percent lower than originally estimated and there was a possibility the job could be completed for a somewhat lesser price. A true cost wouldn't be known until bids were actually received. He explained QCC uses Department of Transportation pricing for their estimates and until a job is put out to bid the actual cost can't be determined. He suggested the town and QCC sit down with DOT over the next month and determine the "hard numbers" on how much designs, permits and other fees would be in order to better determine final figures for the project.

Bouchard said a two-sided, open dialogue could also be beneficial as other state projects are dropped on occasion, freeing up previously earmarked funds, which Northfield might be able to get for the Bean Hill Road reconstruction.

"They (DOT) have been able to garnish funds for municipal projects in the past. The pressure is on to them to get rid of these unnumbered roadways in the state," Bouchard said.

He suggested the town make an appointment to meet with Jim Marshall of DOT this month and see what comes out of the discussion before making any decision on delaying the project or moving ahead through phases.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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