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Low bid brings controversial contractor back to Montague

MONTAGUE — As the town looks to recoup losses from what it considers a botched sewer repair project, the state has hired the same contractor to return for a multimillion-dollar road project.

The Montague Board of Selectmen on Monday took its lawyer’s advice and delayed two payments totaling $178,984 to Baltazar Contractors of Ludlow for the Millers Falls Road sanitary sewer replacement and then heard the town planner’s report that the company is also the low-bidder for the state contract to reconstruct Greenfield Road.

The board this week signed two change orders reducing the Baltazar contract by $12,656. “These are decreases because we are not having Baltazar do the paving and finishing the paving jobs,” said Highway Superintendent Thomas Bergeron.

The board went on to table the two final payments to Baltazar.

“The attorney suggests that no action be taken with respect to the final payment to Baltazar ... the town needs to review the issues respecting possible claims against Baltazar,” board administrative assistant Wendy Bogusz said.

At its last meeting, the board agreed to hire Sunderland paving company Warner Brothers, at a cost of $35,394, to repave a section of Millers Falls Road patched by Baltazar. The company had patched the road after digging a trench to lay sewer line by the Industrial Boulevard intersection last year, a project that ultimately cost the town heavily after the new line did not line up with the old.

“As we know, we’re not all impressed with the blacktopping Baltazar did on Millers Falls Road,” Bergeron said.

In seconding the motion to hire a new contractor, Selectman Michael Nelson said he had heard from multiple residents complaining about the road.

Bergeron said the patch is well joined but wavy and bumpy, apparently because the company used a 13-foot paving box to cover what they expected to be a 6-foot to 8-foot trench, but which widened past 20 feet as the sandy walls collapsed.

Bergeron said Baltazar was not willing to fix the patch without charging. Nelson asked if the new contractor’s paving bill were something that could be added to the bill for any potential litigation over the misaligned sewer.

Bergeron said the lesson learned is that future contracts should specify that construction contractors sub-contract any paving to professional pavers.

“If it did go to litigation — just this paving — we wouldn’t have a leg to stand on because they did what they said they were going to do; they didn’t say it would be perfect and smooth,” Bergeron said.

Because of the Millers Falls patch, the town moved the Industrial Boulevard repaving job to Warner Brothers.

Regarding the larger Greenfield Road reconstruction project, Town Planner Walter Ramsey said Baltazar bid $5.28 million, $90,000 less than the $5.37 million state estimate. On the table is a complete reconstruction of the two-mile stretch from Sherman Drive by Montague City Road and the sewage treatment plant to the Hatchery Road intersection, funded by the Department of Transportation.

“Any issues that may occur are their problem, not ours,” Nelson said.

The town is responsible for the road, including maintenance and repair, but only after the state signs off that it has been built to their specifications, Nelson said.

Bids were opened July 22 and the contract has not yet been awarded, according to the DOT.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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