BARRE — City Manager Steve Mackenzie is hoping to overcome a near six-figure surprise reflected in recently opened bids to construct a new municipal parking lot and nearby pedestrian plaza.

Due to their proximity, both long-promised projects were bid jointly in what Mackenzie believed would be a money-saving maneuver.

Perhaps it was, but Mackenzie said Monday, that wasn’t immediately evident from four bids that all far exceeded the engineer’s estimates for constructing a parking lot between Keith Avenue and Pearl Street, and converting a portion of Pearl Street into a generous pedestrian way.

Even the low-bid – $879,000 – submitted by DuBois Construction was roughly $96,000 more than anticipated, prompting Mackenzie to delay recommending the City Council award a construction contract for at lest a week, and possibly two.

Before making that recommendation, Mackenzie said he and Public Works Director Bill Ahearn need to huddle with a representative from DuBois & King Inc. who is in the process of vetting the “disappointing” bids that were received by last Wednesday’s deadline.

“The bids came in higher than I had hoped and anticipated,” he said. “Now we need to take an unfrazzled look at the numbers and decide how to proceed.”

While the bids were higher than expected across the board, Mackenzie said a preliminary assessment indicates there is enough voter-approved money for the projects left to cover the low bid and unless that changes he’s still hoping to award the contract in time for construction to start on June 24.

“That’s what I’m shooting for,” he said, noting the “raw” bid summaries begged questions he wants answered before making any recommendation.

Mackenzie said the bid opening started on a misleadingly positive note when the price Capitol Earthmoving Inc. quoted for mobilizing was less than $7,200. However, the Barre firm offered to complete the parking lot project for $505,000 and the pedestrian way for nearly $402,000 – pushing its total bid to just under $915,000.

It was mostly downhill from there, because two of the three remaining bids exceeded that overall total – one by a little and the other by a lot.

Though the bids for the various components of the work varied widely Hebert Excavation Corp.’s overall price was substantially similar to Capitol Earthmoving’s. The Williamstown company’s overall bid was just under $917,000.

The high-bid – nearly $1,035,000 – was submitted by Don Weston Excavating Inc. of Williston. However, the bid summary’s suggest the company quoted the lowest price for the parking lot – $455,000 – and the highest price for the pedestrian way – $534,000.

The reverse was true of the low-bidder. DuBois Construction quoted the highest price for the parking lot – $578,000 – and the lowest price for the pedestrian way – $250,509.

Mackenzie said he was at a loss to explain those discrepancies and hoped to schedule a meeting with the consultant to clarify the bids later this week. He said he planned to present the council with a recommendation either next Tuesday or the following week and is still operating under the assumption work on both projects will start next month and be finished this summer.

Mackenzie said the 104-space parking lot is the priority, while the pedestrian way is an amenity that, if forced to choose, he would elect to defer.

“I’m not contemplating that happening, but at this point I can’t rule it out,” he said.

david.delcore @timesargus.com

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