Chester board picks ‘design/build’ for emergency services building Reviews no bid contract with Russell Construction in executive session

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Board member Lee Gustafson who serves on the building committee has advocated for using the design build process. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

The Chester Select Board voted to go with a “design-build” process rather than traditional bidding for the proposed emergency services building, but not without objections by one member.

“I believe in process and I don’t think we did our due diligence here,” said board member Heather Chase, who has asked if the job would go out to bid at several board meetings. “My concerns were minimized,” said Chase.

Board member Lee Gustafson, who serves as chairman of the committee that has been working with Russell Construction on a preliminary design, has told the board that the design-build process is quicker and cheaper than hiring an architect and bidding the construction and that Russell had already done a lot of the work in designing an EMS building for Pleasant Street. That building was rejected by Chester voters more than a decade ago.

Board member Heather Chase saying her concerns had been minimized.

Board chair Arne Jonynas said he had also thought that the work was going to be bid, but that working with Russell would save quite a bit of money.

Chase said she had heard about saving money but not seen the figures. “I prefer to make decisions with a whole lot of information.”

Board member Dan Cote said Chase was “100 percent correct,” adding, “We’ve said in the future we will do it better.”

In the end, with Chase abstaining, the board voted to continue working with Russell Construction and to have an executive session at the end of the meeting to review a proposed contract.

Detour during Popple Dungeon bridge work

Reversing a decision made in April, the board decided there will not be an on-site detour on Popple Dungeon Road during the replacement of the culvert just west of Zezza Road.

Originally, the engineering firm VHB had estimated that the cost of a “cast in place” concrete span with a temporary bridge that would keep the road open would be $700,000 while a pre-cast bridge with no temporary bridge would cost $692,000.  At the time, the board felt that it was worth the additional $8,000 to keep the road open for emergency services such as fire and ambulance.

Then, at the Jan. 16 meeting, VHB engineer Jason Kenner returned with cost estimates that were much higher. At that meeting, the board decided that, while drilled piles were preferable for the bridge footings, the cost difference was so high that they would go with “spread footings.”  The board also asked Kenner to return with the engineering costs associated with the project.

The temporary bridge spanning a failing culvert on Popple Dungeon Road

On Wednesday, board members learned that with the engineering included, the project with a temporary bridge detour would cost $963,000 and without the detour would be $855,000. The project is being done with $600,000 in grants and $150,000 in town matching funds for a total of $750,000. Thus, even with no temporary bridge, the project comes up $105,000 short. Jonynas noted that the construction budget includes a $70,000 contingency fund that would make up for much of the shortfall if the project goes as planned. In addition, the town will bid the project in January of 2020 hoping that contractors will be “hungry at that time of year” instead of putting it out to bid this summer.

The loss of the on-site detour will raise emergency response times considerably during the 28-day schedule for the project. Emergency responders will have to take Rt. 11 to Howard Hill Road to reach residents west of 3200 Popple Dungeon Road, including those in Windham.  Fire Chief Matt Wilson has suggested having a three-person crew on duty at the Fire Station in the daytime during construction to reduce response time during the detour. Moving the work into 2020 will also avoid the construction involved with the VTrans reclamation of Rt. 11 scheduled for this summer.

Water rate raised, water complaint settled

Before convening as the Select Board, the members met as the Chester Water Commission to raise the charge for an “equivalent unit” to $60. The price has been raised gradually over the past several years to reach 1 percent of the median household income for the water district.

Deb Baker, left and Water Superintendent Jeff Holden speak about the incident that flooded Baker’s kitchen

That figure was required by the state financing of a large water system project. The low median household income made it possible for the state to offer a negative interest rate that allowed the town to borrow a little more than $3.726 million, but only pay back $2.923 million. Town Manager David Pisha said he thought this may be the last time it will be necessary to raise the equivalent unit rate to reach the level prescribed by the state loan.

In a water-related situation, Chester resident Deb Baker told the board about a recent incident in which water department employees’ attempt to work on a water meter resulted in a flood in her kitchen.

According to Water Superintendent Jeff Holden, Baker’s water installation did not have a shutoff valve that was easily accessible. After lengthy explanations by Baker and Holden, Pisha said that the town’s insurer would pay the claim without assigning blame.

Jonynas, who is a plumber, noted that he had recommended that Baker install a more accessible shutoff when he did work for her five years ago.

Ready for our close-up, again?

Filmmaker Chris Bayon, on the tablet screen, as the board set up to speak with him.

The board spoke via computer with Chris Bayon, who is working on a film that he said will probably be released directly to Netflix. Called The Truth About Santa Claus, the film is the story of a man who is afraid to have children and one day – after a “run-in” with Santa – all the people in his life are suddenly children.

Interior shooting has been done according to Bayon and now the production needs “a Christmas vibe.”

“We need the whole town to help us if possible,” said Bayon who wants to use elementary school students as actors around the Green. Bayon said they expect that that portion of the shoot would take four to five hours on one day and involve closing the Green. Bayon also told the board the production would also need the use of the town’s police cars and firetrucks.

Board member Dan Cote gives his phone number to Bayon

Bayon said they would like to shoot between March 7 and 11 in hopes there will still be plenty of snow.

“We should do it, the town will get credit,” said Cote, who later held up a note with a phone number in front of the computer screen. “You can see this right?” Cotte asked Bayon. “You need a place to stay while you’re here?” Cote and his wife own the Inn Victoria.

Pisha told the board that he had spoken with “Cindy” at the elementary school  — presumably Chester-Andover Elementary School’s Administrative Assistant Cindy Cole — who told him that they would “just have to do the paperwork.”

The consensus of the board was to have Pisha handle the arrangements.

Chester was the backdrop for another Christmas movie, Moonlight & Mistletoe, released by the Hallmark Channel in 2008.

In other business

Planning commission member Barre Pinske complains that the panel is getting bogged down in the environmental concerns of some of its members.

During public comment, Planning Commission member Barre Pinske complained that that panel was getting bogged down in environmental issues by members who are passionate about that issue. Pinske quoted a figure of 1 acre of forest making up for the carbon footprints of 18 people. Pinske said he felt that Vermont was doing its part and that things like the fuel storage resolution on the Town Meeting warning is “like spitting into the ocean for more water.” Pinske wondered if the town should have a community-wide environmental policy.

Pinske also complained that the Planning Commission had received no response from the schools to a request for information to be used in the Town Plan.

Pisha told the board that a property that was discussed during the work on the town’s salvage ordinance would be up for tax sale on Tuesday, Feb. 19 and wondered if the town should buy it and clean it up. The board was reluctant to have the town own the property without knowing what environmental problems it has. Pisha will check with the state to see if there’s a program for assessing such properties.

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  1. Design-build contracts contain the inherent risk of the fox-in-hen-house concern. The same company that is building the structure is informing the client how well the building is being built and how much to pay for the construction. Can it all go flawlessly? Yes…maybe.

    When there is no 3rd party to guard the client’s best interests, there is an invited risk that is unnecessary.