Billing Disagreement Not Expected to Stall Construction

            The sight of drawings illustrating color options was welcomed by the Mattapoisett Fire Station Building Committee during its November 24 meeting at the Mattapoisett Public Library. Unwelcome was a $127,000 excavation bill based on change orders from general contractor Rubicon.

            Estimating extra excavation of 327 cubic yards on the site where work was expected to resume on Monday after the Thanksgiving weekend, town-contracted project manager Bryan Fors of Vertex said that, based upon the export-import of material, “The extra compensation for that is just under $21,000 ($20,651).”

            Fors told the committee that the matter had dragged on for over a month after the work in question had been completed. Saying he and architect Chris Logan of Boston-based Context were “still in limbo,” they decided two weeks before the November 24 meeting to conduct their own analysis. Elevation of the driveway accounted for $8,000 in added material, but he said there was no geotechnical work taking place in the area.

            “I think this is a little unprecedented,” said Fors, noting that red flags and timeouts would have been appropriate.

            Logan told the committee there was no notification of over excavating and that Mattapoisett’s effort had been “very consistent” with its samples and test pits.

            “They obviously dug deep in that area,” Logan said. “The issue I have is [the work] wasn’t directed to go that route.”

            The ensuing discussion involved Fors, Logan, Fire Station Building Committee members including Chair Mike Hickey, Fire Chief Andrew Murray, volunteer Bill Cantor, and Selectman Jordan Collyer (also a Fire Department captain). Andy Bobola, Mattapoisett’s director of Inspectional Services, Mattapoisett Police Captain Jason King, and former Town Administrator Mike Gagne were also present. Town Administrator Mike Lorenco attended via conference call.

            Hickey told the committee that he had met with Rubicon to go over the change order numbers the general contractor had listed and that the design team’s rejection of that invoice was based on process, review, and counterproposal.

            “I did not want Bryan or Chris submitting anything to Rubicon with [a figure] on it. Then they’d have to withdraw that amount of money because the committee didn’t have the opportunity to review,” said Hickey. Thus, the discussion at the committee table, “So everybody knows what’s going on,” and members could “ask Chris or Bryan about this before we move forward.”

            Hickey would add that, despite not knowing how Rubicon would respond, it was important that the committee take a position and move the project forward.

            “We’re based on numbers and facts,” Collyer told Fors. “As long as we can stand behind your numbers … they’re going to have to come up with better data and show us where that material is.”

            Fors explained to the committee that the unit prices submitted by Rubicon encompass material, labor, etc. “That unit price also will include all overhead and profit,” he said. “In our original change order from the general contractor, they add their fees on top of that.”

            At the heart of the committee’s problem with the bill is a lack of communication. Not only did the meeting not find substantiation in the $127,000 excavation bill, but members also found it unacceptable that such excavation work significantly exceeding what was ordered would not have been flagged before the bill approached anywhere near that mark.

            Lorenco articulated concern about the town’s relationship with Fairhaven Excavating, as it may affect future projects.

            While the subcontractor’s work is the bone of contention, the town’s business is with the general contractor. Such disputes are not uncommon in large, multi-million-dollar projects. Still, the committee is beholden to the town’s taxpayers and voted to authorize Vertex to respond to Rubicon– after reviewing the data, Vertex believes a valid change order for over-excavation amounts to $20,651 (not the $127,000 billed).

            Progress at the site visible from Route 6 just east of North Street is obvious. The frame of the structure forms an outline of the building that, when completed, will be a tasteful, $10 million facility capable of addressing Mattapoisett’s needs for many years to come.

            Hickey told the committee that all paving would wait until spring 2021.

            Transitioning to the budget review also on the meeting agenda, Hickey considered the budget “realistic” and said, “We’re not in bad shape.

            “We have to be conscious, though,” he added. “If we were to be liable for a large over-excavation change order, we can adjust [the budget] down once we know where we stand. We’re overall running true to our number. I have what we need to operate our station and contingency.”

            Hickey said the town should be ordering a gear washer and lockers to secure a price point now and avoid any potential cost increases. Murray and Collyer discussed other essential equipment, including a cascade (gas) filling system.

            The road signal system, which “all-in” will cost $450,000 including design, construction, administration, and details, will consist of three signals for traffic heading east on Route 6, west on Route 6, and perpendicular at Bay Club Drive facing the fire station. The signal will turn green when traffic on County Road turns red. The signals will be triggered from within the Police and Fire stations and from their vehicles.

            Although the signal system was not awarded a MassWorks grant that the committee had sought, Gagne indicated that fire apparatus was included in an article within the town budget that also addresses improvement to Industrial Drive and work on the Acushnet River Bridge.

            In the next couple of weeks, the committee expects to see a mock-up on-site with various shingle colors for the roof and the siding. Choices were made on November 24 for the overall scheme, including overhead doors.

            Logan displayed drawings with five basic options, all with a granite base and off-white or white trim.

            Murray found agreement in his preference for white overhead doors facing Route 6, red doors in the rear, a charcoal-colored roof (Atlantic blue was the other option), darker gable ends on the siding, and white trim.

            The mock-up is expected to be finished for the December 14 week. The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Fire Station Building Committee is scheduled for December 22 at 11:00 am at the Mattapoisett Library.

Mattapoisett Fire Station Building Committee

By Mick Colageo

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