Pittsfield Council Backs Clapp Park Plan
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council agreed to cover the funding gap in the Clapp Park renovation project.
The city had found itself short by about $150,000 for the park's planned restoration. The project entails the installation of a splash pad, improvements to the baseball field, and restoring the bathroom.
It once encompassed more but had been scaled back after bids came in too high in the fall. The latest version of the project was recently bid and the response also came in too high so the council is filling the gap.
"This is not the position we wanted to be in but this project was bid twice and the bids came in higher than anticipated," Parks and Open Space Manager Jim McGrath said. "We are unable to execute a contract with Mountain View Landscape out of Chicopee for this project."
The city had received a $400,000 state grant to undertake a massive restoration of the West Housatonic Street park. That was matched by city funds for bathrooms, Community Preservation Act funding, $180,000 donation from the Rotary Club, and a $5,000 donation from Carr Hardware. However, that was not enough as the project falls $150,000 short.
McGrath said that after design, architectural, legal notices, and a new scoreboard had already been purchased the collective funding for the project stands at about $672,000. That just about matches the total bid but many of the materials were not included in the bid and have to be bought separately. In a cost saving measure, McGrath said the city will be buying much of the material for the project directly from vendors to avoid a contractor mark up.
Additionally, that would leave no room for contingency should something unexpected be found during the construction.
The project is expected to cost $826,125 in all, $153,000 more than the city has on hand. The state grant expires at the end of June and the money either has to be spent by then or the city loses it. That gives little time to scale back the design more and re-bid the project.
"This is the first time we've had an issue where bids are high and timing is a factor," McGrath said, adding that across the region bids for park projects have been coming in higher than anticipated recently.
McGrath thinks a limited number of contractors bidding may have something to do with it. The Chicopee-based Mountain View was the only bidder on the project.
Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo pressed McGrath about the possibility of re-negotiating with Mountain View and scaling the scope back without having to go to bid. She suggested the city work with the contractor to pull various aspects of the project out of the scope and settle on an agreement within the current budget.
"I feel like we don't negotiate enough," Mazzeo said.
That, however, is not legal through public procurement laws. If the city scales back the project significantly, other potential contractors would need to see the new design and have an opportunity to bid on that. Procurement laws are in place to prevent behind closed doors negotiations such as that.
McGrath said the project had already been significantly scaled back before it was re-bid. The handicapped accessibility factors in the playground were reduced, the restroom was downsized, the splash pad's location was moved to reduce the amount of water piping needed, the relocation of the basketball court to the rear of the park was taken out, the creation of a new parking lot and renovations to the existing driveway were removed, and new trees to line West Housatonic Street were cut.
"We substantially reduced the project but we stayed within the program we had committed to," McGrath said.
McGrath added that the project is expected to continue in the future so those elements could be handled then. The Buddy Pellerin Field Committee has a multi-year plan to continue with renovations to the ball field.
Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers felt the renovation seems to be missing the target. She said neighbors in that areas are more concerned about the driveway, parking lot, and the condition of the track more than the splash pad and baseball field but none of those elements are being addressed.
The focus on the park started with the formation of a Buddy Pellerin Field Committee. That group organized an effort to rename the baseball field, which is home for the Pittsfield High Generals, after the former coach. From there, they've began raising money and making improvements to the field. The group has a multi-year vision to completely transform the field.
The Rotary Club then joined in. In celebration of its 100th year, the group voted to donate $180,000 to build a splash pad at Clapp Park. The city brought those funding sources together and applied, and received, the state grant. The City Council would later approve another $150,000 to be used to renovate the bathrooms at the park.
Despite lengthy questioning of McGrath Tuesday night, the council was unanimous in its support to fund that gap.
Tags: public parks,
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