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Mount Greylock Subcommittee Asks Questions about Proposal to Draw Up Field Bid Documents

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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Michelle Johnson, who was elected to the School Committee in November, participates Thursday in her first meeting of the committee's Finance Subcommittee.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock School Committee wants a little more information before ordering new construction bid documents for an overhaul to the athletic fields at the middle-high school.
Boston architect Perkins Eastman quoted the district a price of $44,000 to redo the documents that would form the heart of a request for proposals to install an artificial turf field and make needed modifications to other facilities to bring the school property into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title IX.
If the School Committee puts the project out to bid this winter, it would be the district's second effort to get a general contractor for the proposed project. The first time around, Perkins Eastman, which designed the addition/renovation project at Mount Greylock, also was the architect on the fields project.
When the School Committee last month saw the price tag for a new set of design documents, it decided to refer the question to its Finance Subcommittee for consideration, and on Thursday that subcommittee met to discuss next steps.
"I'd like to know two things," Michelle Johnson told her colleagues. "What went wrong [in September 2019], and how are they going to fix it is of primary importance. And does this [$44,000] fee reflect a discount, for lack of a better term, as a sort of mea culpa.
"It's basic customer service, I think."
The thing that "went wrong" last year was a wide variation in quotes for parts of the project from the three contractors who responded to the district's RFP.
Although all the bottom lines for all three bids were similar ($2.847 million, $2.896 million and $2.984 million), the line items behind those figures were wildly different.
The price of a new multisport synthetic field, installed, was quoted by one contractor at $1.1 million and another at $1.5 million. The cost for "ADA improvements" ranged from $55,000 to $154,000. The quote for softball field improvements was $260,000 from one contractor and $743,000 from another.
The disparities in quoted prices for components of the project was one thing that gave School Committee members pause when they opened the bids in September 2019. The district's advisors on the project — Perkins Eastman and its subcontractor, Traverse Landscape Architecture — could not provide an immediate explanation for the variation.
Carolyn Greene, who was not on the School Committee at the time of the September 2019 bids but returned to the panel this spring, asked Thursday whether the architects followed up with the contractors to find out the source of the variation.
"They did, I believe," Business Manager Joe Bergeron told the subcommittee. "The district could not go and negotiate with the firms at the time per procurement laws, but I believe Traverse went to them [after all three bids were rejected] and said, ‘Why did you bid this way?' Presumably they learned something from that experience that would lead to success in a next round if it happens."
Another factor in the School Committee's decision not to accept any of the 2019 bids was the fact that all three came in well above the $2.3 million price estimated by Traverse; the lowest bid was 24 percent above the estimated cost.
Greene pointed out that the proposal from Perkins Eastman this time around recommends that the district hire its own cost estimator to look at the new bid documents before issuing an RFP.
"I'm sure they are," Johnson said. "I'm not even talking about the estimates because I get how that's a little hard to [predict]. It's the bid documents themselves that were problematic, and that is [the architects]. That's where I'm uncomfortable going with their flat fee because they are the ones who produced the bid documents."
In the end, the three-person subcommittee agreed to have Bergeron go back to the architect with two questions: What went wrong last time and what can be done this time to eliminate bidding disparities, and is there a discount available based on the fact that the first bidding documents were problematic?
"I should add that there's a possibility there's a discount baked into this [$44,000 quote]," Bergeron said in accepting the charge. "It's just not readily apparent in this proposal."

Tags: MGRSD,   playing fields,   

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By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Two employees of the town resigned Monday in the wake of a complaint about employee conduct.
And one member of the five-person Select Board will be leaving his post a year ahead of schedule.
Those were the surprises to emerge from a meeting that mostly focused on the town's efforts to investigate accusations of wrongdoing in its police department and develop a plan to replace its recently retired chief.
Select Board Chair Jane Patton announced the employees' departure at the start of the meeting.
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