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North Main Street project will cost $139,000 more than Orange thought

  • A 0.4-mile section of North Main Street in Orange, as well as two culverts, will be reconstructed. Construction may not begin until 2023. STAFF PHOTO/DAVID McLELLAN

  • A 0.4-mile section of North Main Street in Orange, as well as two culverts, will be reconstructed. Construction may not begin until 2023. STAFF PHOTO/DAVID McLELLAN

  • A 0.4-mile section of North Main Street in Orange, as well as two culverts, will be reconstructed. However, construction may not begin until 2023, and it's going to cost $139,000 more than the town planned. FILE PHOTO



Staff Writer
Friday, December 07, 2018

ORANGE — The engineering contract is in place to fix two damaged culverts on North Main Street that would cause catastrophic consequences if they crumble, according to the Selectboard. But, it’s going to cost a bit more than voters agreed on.

The town signed a “scope of work and fee proposal” contract with engineering services company Stantec, which will provide preliminary engineering on a four-tenths-of-a-mile stretch of North Main Street, and two culverts underneath the road.

The project will be funded through the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), and is estimated to cost $5.1 million for the full reconstruction.

The town struck a deal, approved by voters at this year’s annual Town Meeting, to pay for preliminary engineering for the project before the state comes in to do the repairs.

Residents authorized the town to raise and appropriate $750,000 for the engineering work. The original quote from Stantec was for $643,229.90, allowing the rest of the $750,000 to go toward legal fees, easements and sidewalks — “finishing” costs, according to Town Administrator Gabriele Voelker.

Now, Stantec has asked for $782,423.52, increasing its asking price by $139,193.62 for a town that has struggled financially, making at least 5 percent cuts to every department’s proposed operating budgets this year.

“We’ve done everything we can to try and retain control of this, and the news that they were going to ask for this much more money was pretty unpleasant,” said Selectboard Vice-Chairwoman Jane Peirce.

Peirce said the state has pressured the town to make a commitment to the project, and at a meeting with MassDOT the state agency told the town they must stick with Stantec, rather than search for another engineer at this point.

MassDOT first collected information on the project in 2000, according to records.

The Selectboard agreed to pay the extra money Wednesday, and, according to Peirce, there wasn’t much of a choice.

“This is the gateway to five-and-a-half million dollars of state funding that will actually do the project,” said Peirce, adding that the town is “over a barrel” with the contract situation.

“If we don’t pay the engineering, we lost the project and we lose the money we’ve already invested and we still have a road that’s falling apart,” Peirce said.  

The town has already invested $300,000 into the project, according to Voelker. 

The project includes “roadway reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconstruction of various retaining walls and two major drainage culverts, construction of ADA accessible sidewalks and wheelchair ramps, drainage system modifications and improvements; construction of curb and bituminous concrete berm installations; traffic signing; landscaping and streetscape improvements and other incidental work,” according to MassDOT’s description.

According to Highway Superintendent Colin Killay, the construction phase may not begin for another five years, and it could take two construction seasons. 

The two culverts — and their condition — is what makes the project urgent. If the old and damaged structures were to fail, it would likely cut off the main route to the town’s two elementary schools. 

“It’s the route to the schools, it’s the route to North Orange, emergency access is critical. The road is in really bad shape, and we fear a catastrophic event that will take it out,” Peirce said. 

To pay for the unexpected cost, ideas about asking for extra Chapter 90 state funding and for money designated for the school buildings were briefly discussed, though nothing was settled on. 

“The issue being that this $139,000 takes away from the cost of easements, the cost of legal and the cost of sidewalks,” Voelker said. 

When asked by Selectboard Chairman Ryan Mailloux, Voelker attributed the increased contract price to the time that has expired since 2015 when the quote was given and the state of the economy. 

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.