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Status report on Town Hall improvements draws criticism


Town Planner having difficulty getting vendors interested, let alone bidding


by Thomas Beeler
Editor of The Granite State News
June 28, 2012
WOLFEBORO — Town Planner Rob Houseman gave Wolfeboro selectmen his first report on the status of approved Town Hall repairs and improvements at their June 20 meeting, and both he and the board were taken aback by public comments made by three residents.

In March Wolfeboro voters approved spending $200,000 for repairs and improvements to Brewster Memorial Hall "to include, but not limited to, repairs to the building, life safety code improvements, energy efficiency measures, and improvements to the working environment of town employees, and other such work as prioritized by the Board of Selectmen."

The first priority for Town Hall is asbestos removal, and Houseman reported that removal would start the week of July 9. The original estimate provided by Conneston Construction Inc. was $15,000. When actual bids were sought the costs came in at $21,000 $6,000 higher due to a decline in scrap metal prices and the fact that the removal is not part of a larger project, Houseman explained.

The next project is installing a fire alarm system, which was quoted in 2010 for $19,688. Contractor Knight Security is backed up with work but plans to submit a design in August and do the work in the fall. The goal is to come up with a way to incorporate the existing system into the design and come up with a system that can be build upon as opposed to a cheaper and more limited system. Final cost will depend on design.

The third project is to install commercial-grade dehumidification and damp-proof the foundation. Houseman said he is having trouble getting contractors and engineers to respond to his inquiries. So far only one contractor, Aecon of Durham (who has consulted on the Public Safety Building project and the Water Treatment Plant) has responded. Houseman says he expects a bid within a week but he is not confident because there is nothing to compare the bid to. Selectman Dave Senecal suggested Houseman use the consultant who worked on Pop Whalen Ice Arena or Shawn Bergeron, who did the town buildings assessments.

The fourth project involved evaluating and upgrading heating units. Houseman said he has walked the building and identified issues with electrician Rick Burns, who has done work in the building before. A Burns quote is expected shortly. House said he also invited other master electricians to look at the work and quote.

Present office heating units are not thermostatically controlled. The plan is to put all units under thermostats that can be programmed. There is a difficulty with Town Manager Dave Owen's office because the heating units are behind file cabinets which block their effectiveness.

The fifth project is to replace worn carpeting. House said he is putting that aside until after all of the other work is done.

The sixth project is to repair and replace first floor windows. The original estimate for that work was a total of $71,000. Again Houseman is having trouble getting vendors to come in. He got one quote from Pella for the storefront windows for $27,543 that does not include installation. For the remaining 25 windows he has a quote of $49,474, which is higher than estimated due to the fact that eight of the windows in the Annex have to be specially fabricated. The quote does not include four half round windows either. The total quoted so far is $77,017 without the cost of installation.

Houseman said the Pella quote came at his request from Dave Hadley, who works for Pella and is a Tuftonboro resident.

Admitting he feels under pressure to get the work completed, Houseman said he hopes to get the projects he outlined completed by November.

Public comments

During the public comment period at the end of the June 20 meeting, resident Bob Lemaire said he did a Right to Know request on the asbestos abatement costs and he believes the costs are at least $4,000 greater than Houseman indicated. He said he asked for a copy of the contract and was sent an older contract.

Lemaire said of the original estimate on windows that the higher cost seemed to be based on color. "What we've been pitched now are the most expensive Pella windows. How can I get access to what comprised the $21,000 estimate and $50,000 current quote?" He said he considers the wide difference a red flag. What he is after is not to spend less on Town Hall, but to try to get the money to go farther.

Selectmen Dave Bowers asked Lemaire if he knew of any other brands that could be approached.

Lemaire said the town should ask Carroll County Glass and Granite State Glass for quotes, among others.

Selectman Sarah Silk said that sometime local vendors don't want to bid on large projects.

Lemaire said they still should be asked.

He also challenged the standards being used, saying that the National Register does not specify what windows to use. He also cited Exeter Town Hall, which used aluminum-clad windows that are not obtrusive in that historic building.

Town Manager Owen said he felt that the building should meet National Register standards. As a practical matter, the town should have design specifications created in order to put the windows out to bid, and that would add to the cost.

Selectman Chair Linda Murray said the Board of Selectmen sets priorities and can make adjustments. She added that the first quote for the work to be done was $248,000, which the board brought down to the $200,000 on the warrant.

Houseman responded that the single windows quote received so far was one he solicited. "If the board wants me to go out to bid, I will take a portion of the engineering funds to create bid documents.

Resident Suzanne Ryan said that in 2009 Owen said the town would use its bid policy and go out to bid.

Owen responded that the board has the right to waive the policy if appropriate.

Ryan said the current approach "does not pass the smell test. We should go out to bid." She went on to say that getting this work done is "not an emergency" and there is no justification for making an exception not to bid the work. "It's not hard to write up a spec," she said, adding that McGinley-Kalsow was going to use exterior storm panels on the windows. She said she had personal problems with a Pella installation that Pella addressed. "I am not against Pella but there are plenty of other window companies out there. Use sealed bids."

Attorney Tom Bickford asked, "How do we know as citizens that the Board of Selectmen has made an exception to the bidding policy?"

Murray responded, "This is the first time the Board of Selectmen has seen any quotes. Nothing has been done behind the scenes and nothing is out to bid."

Silk told Bickford he is "assuming we are further along that we are. We've made no decisions or taken any votes."

Bowers said, "No one has proposed no bidding."

Bickford said, "They were asked for a bid."

Bowers corrected, "One person was asked for a quote."

Selectmen Chuck Storm, who was attending his first board meeting following knee surgery and had been quiet thus far, said to Bickford, "I take umbrage at you taking our time. You are way ahead of us in your assumptions."

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