WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The School Committee on Tuesday voted to authorize the administration to again put the track and field project to bid after eliminating the "value engineering" items identified by the subcommittee charged with shepherding the project.
The potential cuts in the project were presented to the School Committee last week on the heels of news that the low bid for the new eight-lane track and multi-purpose grass athletic field came back 40 percent over the district's estimate.
Business Manager Joe Bergeron, who serves on the district's Field and Track Committee, told the School Committee that the subcommittee unanimously recommended the amendments to the bid documents after pushing for a path to keep alive the possibility of one of the items on the value engineering list.
That list, which amounted to $1.43 million in cuts, included both the removal of bleachers and a press box ($450,000) and the sub base and concrete ($70,000) where such amenities could be added at a later date.
"This is the one where the committee was, I believe, unanimous in its belief that we want to see [the sub base and concrete] happen, even if it's in a slightly reduced form, as part of the project," Bergeron said. "It is literally the foundation on top of which you can say, 'Let's get the bleachers here. Let's get money. Let's do it.' Without [the concrete pad], yes, you can have a mini excavation project later that excavates and puts down layers of concrete and sub base. But if we've got it there, we're in much better shape to say, 'We're ready for one of those crowning jewels of the project.'
"We made the request of [architect] CHA and [project manager] Skanska to give it some thought and have it either be an add-alternate for the project or to come up with a way to specify that we wanted unit costs. … [To ask bidders] what would it cost per 10 square feet of concrete so we could say, as a change order, as we go through the project, ‘Great, we've got the money, let's get it done.' "
Bergeron said the Field and Track Committee asked the architect and owner's project manager to advise the district which of those two approaches — add-alternate or unit pricing — would most likely yield the least expensive number in a prospective bid.
"I think where they're going to go is they're going to say the sub base and concrete can be an add-alternate," Bergeron said. "Because it's very discrete. It doesn't bring in a lot of contingencies or dependencies for how they're bidding it."
On the other hand, a less potentially discrete part of the project could be more problematic as an add-alternate, Bergeron told the School Committee.
The largest single item on the value engineering list was an irrigation system for the field inside the track, with an estimated cost of $550,000.
Having irrigation on the field would ensure the playability of the grass surface down the road in dry years and make it easier if and when the district needs to resod the areas in front of the soccer/lacrosse goals, which see more wear and tear, Bergeron told the committee.
School Committee member Jose Constantine suggested that the district add irrigation as an add-alternate as well. But, unlike the concrete pad, irrigation has ramifications for how the field itself is built, Bergeron said.
"The challenge with add-alternates is: Imagine someone gives you a Microsoft Word document, and you say, 'What am I bidding on?' " he said. " ‘I'm bidding this thing right here, but then you have this other thing that is an add-alternate, and it threads in with everything else. So I need to either keep that thing in mind and deal with all that complexity and make my base bid higher so I'm prepared for you accepting it, or I need to make the add-alternate [bid] expensive enough that I don't lose my shirt when I need to fit it in.
"That's why having add-alternates, lots of them, that increases the price as we look forward. We're trying to simplify it down so we don't have clouds of uncertainty. That's part of why we're saying, ‘Let's remove it entirely.' "
Part of what makes irrigation of the field more expensive is the fact that the entire Cold Spring Road campus is supplied by well water, not town water, Bergeron explained.
"It's kind of like a renovation task," he said. "It isn't like you're hooking up to a town water system somewhere with a well known 3-inch pipe. We knew going in that irrigation was complex but highly desirable."
He suggested that instead of making the entire irrigation system an add-alternate on the project, the district administration and its advisors could work with a contractor to find a way to make the athletic field "irrigation ready" if the district decides to add full irrigation down the road.
"Something I could see coming back to you with after CHA has spent more time on this with or once we're in the project and have room for a change order would be, ‘Let's see if we can get the irrigation heads and the piping in place but not have all the tanks and the permanent interconnection,' " Bergeron said.
Bergeron also warned that while removing irrigation, in theory, cuts a half-million expense from the project, it also could incrementally increase what a contractor charges to guarantee a usable field by the fall of 2025, the district's target date (the track would be available that spring on the current timeline).
"We're working with CHA and Skanska to do two things," Bergeron said. "One is to make sure we have a portable irrigation system or enough irrigation components on site to make sure we can do it. Part two is we need to make sure we can draw from our existing water supply to provide the water for the purposes up front so we don't have bidders saying, 'Now I have to truck in 50,000 gallons of water per week.'
"So we need to make sure that as we move through the process, CHA keeps that in mind.
There's going to be a lot of continued conversation there."
To that point, while it was suggested last week that the project could be put out to bid relatively quickly after the School Committee acted on Tuesday, Bergeron said the architect needs a couple of weeks to go back through the bid documents to make sure everything works with the value engineering deductions the elected body approved.
"We have some time this fall before we need to put it out to bid, and if CHA needs a couple of weeks to do their work, we should put it out to bid when it's ready," Bergeron said. "We're still in the sweet spot of fall bidding before people have lined up their contracts for next year."
The committee approved a process for putting the project to bid when the architect, OPM and district administrators are satisfied on a vote of 5-0. Committee members Carolyn Greene and Ursula Maloy did not attend Tuesday's special meeting.
In other business on Tuesday, the committee approved a trip for advanced Spanish students to Argentina over the April vacation.
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Clark Art Participates in Williamstown's Holiday Walk Weekend
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Clark Art Institute joins in the community-wide celebration of the holidays during Williamstown's 40th Annual Holiday Walk weekend, held the first weekend in December.
The Clark kicks off the festivities on Dec. 1 with a live concert by Johnny Irion and U.S. Elevator. On Dec. 2, the Clark hosts art-making activities and horse-drawn carriage rides. The Institute's popular First Sundays Free program continues on Sunday, Dec. 3. Offering free admission to the galleries and special exhibitions from 10 am–5 pm, the day also features a series of light-themed special activities from 1–4 pm, and a special production by Williamstown Theatre Festival (WTF) at 3 pm.
FRIDAY, Dec. 1 ACTIVITIES
Williamstown's Holiday Walk Weekend kicks off with a lively performance by troubadour rocker and Berkshire County treasure Johnny Irion and U.S. Elevator. The concert takes place on Friday, Dec. 1 at 6 pm in the Clark's auditorium, located in the Manton Research Center.
Tickets $10 ($8 members, $7 students, $5 children 15 and under). Advance registration required; capacity is limited. For more information and to register, visit clarkart.edu/events.
SATURDAY, Dec. 2 ACTIVITIES
Enjoy a full day of free holiday festivities all along Williamstown's Spring Street. Engage in art-making activities and enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides on Spring Street, both sponsored by the Clark.
The 1,500-word proposed policy came to the full panel via its policy subcommittee and would appear to replace two existing policies, titled "Library Materials Selection and Adoption" and "Library Resources," that add up to about 800 words on the topic.
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The Mounties Saturday earned a 25-22, 25-19, 25-14 win over Bourne in the Division 5 State Championship match to complete a perfect season and wrap up a magnificent career for seven seniors. click for more
Alice Culver placed sixth in the state on Saturday at Fort Devens to lead the Millionaires to a runner-up showing in the team standings – the best individual and team finishes by the county contingent at the meet. click for more
Community volunteers, school officials, coaches and parents gathered just to the east of the school for a ground-breaking for the $4.3 million track and field project that will be completed at the site over the next couple of years. click for more