Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

October 10, 2013

Roadblock for Youth Center

Bids cause snag in ground-breaking

By Bill Kirk

---- — The Cormier Youth Center, originally scheduled for ground-breaking this past Monday, has hit another speed bump, which could potentially turn into a roadblock.

Five bids for the center’s construction, ranging from $4.3 million to $5.4 million, were opened last week. But the low-bidder, G&R Construction of Quincy, apparently made a clerical error in its bid and has withdrawn from the process. The second-lowest bid, at $4.6 million, would put the project over-budget.

As a result, town officials, the Youth Center Building Committee and the Andover Youth Foundation are looking at other options, which could include re-bidding the whole project.

“We are examining all our alternatives,” Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski said. “This is a very organic process. We are looking at ways of making the second bidder or other options work.”

The second-lowest bidder, Dagle Electrical Construction Corp. of Melrose, put in a bid that was nearly $300,000 higher than the low-bidder, which puts the construction cost out of reach of the current budget.

The long-awaited center, first proposed some 20 years ago as a privately funded, $1.5-million facility in West Andover, has ballooned into a $5.6-million, public/private project near downtown’s Doherty Middle School.

Andrea Zaimes, vice chairwoman of the Andover Youth Foundation, said she thinks the project will get started soon.

“We’ll keep working the numbers,” she said. “We’re getting a shovel in the ground either way. The details of the funding are not final yet.”

Youth Foundation officials have said on numerous occasions that if funding comes up short, they could tap into other sources to make up the shortfall.

Even with the low bid, the group had to use a grant they had hoped to save for operating costs, Zaimes said.

The AYF got a $150,000, three-year grant from the Rogers Foundation in June. The group set aside that money and wasn’t intending to use it for construction costs.

But when the low bid came in, the first $50,000 installment of the three-year grant was needed to make up for a shortfall.

“We were hoping to keep that money in the bank so we could pay to manage the building or for add-alternates,” Zaimes said, referring to additional items outside the base bid, such as kitchen and multi-purpose room build-outs.

Zaimes said if the cost goes up again because a higher bid is used, “we will be working with other donors” to get more money.

Thomas Watkins, Andover’s purchasing agent, said Robert Morel of G&R Construction sent him an email saying the low bid his company submitted was “$400,000 lower than it should have been.”

Watkins said Morel met with members of the Youth Center Building Committee last week and went back to his company to see if there was any way he could trim other costs to meet his original bid.

“He couldn’t make it work out,” Watkins said. “He decided to go forward with his withdrawal.”

Watkins said the building committee could either re-bid the project or award the contract to Dagle, the second-lowest bidder.

But, Watkins pointed out that while Dagle is certified to do such projects, it is primarily an electrical contractor that does security systems and lighting projects. He said the company is just now branching out into municipal projects like the teen center.

Even if the town does decide to go with the second-lowest bidder, it is still fairly costly.

“We are cutting it extremely close with Dagle,” Watkins said.

At a recent Finance Committee meeting, Paul Fortier, the committee’s liaison to the Andover Youth Foundation, said the $4.6 million, second-lowest bid may require using some of the 10 percent contingency budgeted for the project.

“There is an initiative to change the contingency from 10 percent to something lower than that,” he said at the meeting.

But Zaimes said her group hasn’t even discussed that option yet.

Youth Center Building Committee Chairman Chris Huntress said even with the second-lowest bid, “we will still have substantial contingency and we will still be able to move forward.”

He said the 10 percent contingency is part of the agreement between the Andover Youth Foundation and selectmen and would have to be changed by amending the youth center agreement

Stapczynski said Monday night he would probably have to schedule a special meeting of the Board of Selectmen to review any changes to the contract. On Tuesday, he said that special meeting may have to be delayed because there are many options on the table.