Skowhegan Public Safety building breaks down with board vote


Planned construction of a new public safety building in Skowhegan was halted on Tuesday when elected officials rejected a request for additional funding for the work. The construction site at 51 E. Madison Ave. is shown on Wednesday. Rich Abrahamson / Morning Watch

SKOWHEGAN — A planned $10 million public safety building hit a snag this week when elected officials voted 3-2 to reject a request to add an additional $83,289 to the contract amount for the project.

Travis Noyes of Haley Ward Inc., an architectural and engineering firm in Bangor, told selectors on Tuesday that the load requirements for the building require a different foundation plan than originally designed. And he said the foundation must include massive foundations.

“We can’t design something that won’t work – that will fail,” Noyes said.

Jason Jendrasko of Benchmark Construction, based in Westbrook, said the loads coming from MUROX, the manufacturer of the pre-engineered building, were different from those shown at the time he and others were working on the process. The city had approved an $8.25 million “guaranteed maximum project” contract with Benchmark for the work.

“It’s the industry standard with a pre-engineered metal building to assess structural loads once under contract,” Jendrasko told selectors.

The city also has a $665,000 contract with Haley Ward on the project. Apart from that and the Benchmark contract, the city has just under $750,000 for building equipment.

City Manager Christine Almand said Wednesday that the vote by elected officials will not put the project on hold and that she still believes the building will arrive from Canada, where it is being manufactured, within the next two months with a plan occupation next June. .

“I will work to schedule an executive session fairly quickly so that the board can meet and get legal advice and have a conversation with an attorney so they can figure out next steps,” Almand said.

Those next steps could include reconsidering the change order or negotiating that order, she said, adding that both contracts include dispute resolution processes, including mediation or arbitration.

She said her team and contractors meet weekly to work out project details, logistics, permits and other issues. The cost of the change order was originally $97,677 and they were able to reduce that cost.

At Tuesday’s meeting, coach Harold Bigelow didn’t buy the idea that the city should pay more than the $8.25 million contract agreed with Benchmark. He compared the deal to buying a truck.

“We ordered a van and now you’re saying we can’t have it unless we spend more money,” he said. “We signed on the dotted line.”

Selectmen voted in January to hire Benchmark. In 2020, residents passed an $8.9 million bond to build the combined fire and police station at the corner of East Madison Road and Dunlop Lane.

Construction bids were initially higher than officials expected, but they responded with changes aimed at reducing costs.

Selectmen President Todd Smith said on Tuesday that everyone agreed on a guaranteed maximum project price and while he understands the charges, he also understands that residents voted not to exceed a certain amount. in dollars.

Heavy equipment is parked Wednesday near a fence at the construction site of the new Skowhegan Public Safety Building at 51 E. Madison Ave. Rich Abrahamson / Morning Watch

Selector Paul York, who served on the city’s public safety construction committee, said selectors could point the blame, but everyone worked hard to make the project viable. He said he knew the change order was a sore spot because contractors were asking for more money, but in the process changes and cuts had to be made. When the process started, elected officials, taxpayers and voters dragged their feet for a few years and the project ended up costing more because the costs went up, he said. Elected officials could make the process take longer, he said, but they would have to approve the additional funding.

“I just think we have to move on with this,” York said.

Almand said the city has $282,000 in emergency funds to pay for the extent of the changes needed.

City Clerk Gail Pelotte asked if anyone really thought the city would take on a big responsibility as a public safety building and wouldn’t imagine there might be a change order.

Selectman Charles Robbins rejected the idea that the city should fund the change.

“It’s on them,” he said of the entrepreneur. “I don’t see how it can be on us.”

Noyes said the charge information provided after the bid was awarded was unanticipated by everyone involved.

“We didn’t expect this reaction charge to pass,” he said.

Bigelow, meanwhile, said all that is visible at the construction site is a “trench”. Almand responded by saying it may seem like little work has been done, but reminded those present that the building is pre-designed.

“It’s in production,” she said. “When it’s delivered here, it’s going to go up fast, so that’s the difference.”

Noyes warned that there is a risk in not approving the change order.

“If you don’t start off on the right foot, with the right foundation, the building won’t stand,” he said. “I can’t stay behind a building that isn’t safe.”

He said the change order is justified and necessary to move the project forward and based on a review of the contract, no errors were made.

If the selectors reject the claim and the case goes to trial, according to selector Steve Govoni, the city would have to prove negligence and negligent intent, and it would end up paying double the amount of the draft in legal costs.

“I’m going to vote to go ahead with payment for the change order,” he said.

He and York voted to approve this order; Smith, Bigelow and Robbins voted against.

Resident Judi York rose to rebuke the board.

“I’m angry,” she said. “As a taxpayer, I am very angry. This project has been going on for so many years. It went off the rails, but it was eventually voted on.

York, the mother of Paul York, said the city had money in its reserve to fund the change order, and instead the project was derailed again.

“When will we see a new public safety building?” she asked. ” In three years ? How long will it take?”

She said the board should recognize there was a problem with the change order and move on.

“It’s not good, but we still need this building,” she said. “That’s my money sitting there. I am a taxpayer and I want this building finished. You keep talking, Harold (Bigelow), about nothing being done. Well, nothing will be done, and what are you going to tell the taxpayers? »

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