How Much will It Cost?

To the Editor:

Reporting by several media publications of the Marion February 19 Selectmen’s meeting needs clarification. The CDM Smith PowerPoint presentation of the Marion Village Project for sewer, drainage and paving failed to consider misleading cost projections that I pointed out at the Selectmen’s meeting. The $18.4 million cost projection over the Project’s estimated 10-year life made by CDM Smith is not correct. The project is phased in five parts: Phase 1A, $5.2 million; Phase 1B, $4.6 million; Phase 2, $3.9 million; Phase 3, $3.2 million and Phase 4, $3.5 million. The estimated cost of the project is thus $20.4 million. There is $2 million in state grant money. The $2 million in grant money is a mealy a [sic] source of project funding. These grants do not reduce the cost of the project. Likewise, the Town Administrator misrepresented the project costs savings as $9 million. He, too, included the $2 million in grant money. The cost savings is only about $7 million, not $9 million.

These cost savings are base-lined against CDM’s cost analysis, made last year, of $27 million for this project. At that time, Marion’s Finance Committee properly said “no way.” Last year’s $27 million cost estimate contained a very significant cost contingency factor. How do you reduce cost? You do so in part by reducing the amount of the contingency. These are very soft dollar estimates. We were not told by CDM what is in the $248,000 Contingency for Phase 1A or what is in the $841,000 given for Other Town Costs for Phase 1A shown in the their PowerPoint report.

Also looking at the CDM presentation, it’s clear the estimated CDM fee for this project is approximately 20 percent of the constriction costs. This cost is euphemistically classified as Engineering Services. For project Phase 1 A, this cost is stated as $581,000. The higher the construction costs, the higher the CDM fee. Over the 10-year life of the project, it looks as if this fee will range in the $4 million area.

I would encourage Marion taxpayers to attend the public meeting on this project March 7, look at the project and ask some hard questions. From my view of the world, this project is over-engineered, full of bloat and not well-vetted. Is the Village Sewer, drainage and paving necessary? In some form, absolutely yes, no doubt about it in my mind. Is the Village Project acceptable with the current projected engineering and cost? My answer would be no. If this makes Marion taxpayers a bit skeptical, it should. It makes me very skeptical of the administration’s ability to properly scope and control consulting engineers and costs. We are looking at big dollars in capital spending and we in Marion better get it right.

At this point, we have an over-built elementary school and police station. Current Marion debt is about $45 million and another estimated $12 million (mine) in unfunded benefit obligations. There are approximately 2,400 taxpayers to pay this debt, interest plus new debt to pay for all of this “new stuff.” Do the per taxpayer math!

At the Spring Town Meeting, voters will be looking at approving the first phase of this project reported by CDM in its PowerPoint presentation as $5.2 million. Note, however, the Town will apply $1.3 million of $2 million of grant money, so it makes it look as if the project is only going to cost $3.9 million. Not so! The $3.9 million is the balance of what the Town needs to finance of the $5.2 million cost of Phase 1A, which will probably be by the issuance of long term debt.

Also consider that the fire department has a very expensive new fire truck on the horizon and then what and when are we going spend on the Town House before it falls down. ($5 to $8 million?) These costs are all coming down the line, plus may others. The Town warrant has yet to be settled as to what is on or not on it for Spring Town Meeting approval. It’s going to be a warrant not like the ones in recent years that I know.

Ted North, Marion 

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