BARRE — There is no salvaging the swimming season next summer, but after talking to two contractors City Manager Steve Mackenzie said he is hopeful that plans to make a seven-figure investment in the city’s 70-year-old swimming pool can be revived.

Those plans were dealt a significant blow when the lone bid that was recently received came was more than double the engineer’s estimate. The sobering development derailed plans to have construction start this year in order to finish by a June 26, 2020, deadline.

After speaking with representatives of the only bidder – Weston & Sampson – Mackenzie said the tight time-frame that required winter construction and the shortage of suitable sub-contractors were at least partly responsible for the unexpectedly high $2.4 million bid.

Mackenzie said those considerations also prompted a local firm – E.F. Wall & Associates – not to bid on the project after expressing interest initially.

According to Mackenzie, “debriefing sessions” fueled hope that soliciting a second round of proposals that would give contractors next year’s construction season to complete the project would yield more bids and likely a better price.

How much better is unclear though Mackenzie, who planned to meet with the city’s pool consultant to discuss the project today, expects it is some where between the $1.2 million estimate and the $2.4 million bid.

Even if it is closer to the former than the latter something will have to give because the city only has about $1 million to spend.

“It’s unlikely we can afford the project as conceived,” said Mackenzie, who is advocating an “a la carte” approach to soliciting a second round of bids.

Mackenzie explained that would entail carving the project up into parts that could be bid separately.

“When we get good bids, we can pick and choose as to what we can afford,” he said.

Some work, like decommissioning a structurally compromised subsurface mechanical room isn’t optional. Neither is resealing the leaking pool that has been hemorrhaging roughly 8,000 gallons of water a day.

Mackenzie said plans to create a “beach entry” could be bid separately, while acknowledging that could potentially jeopardize $200,000 in federal funding the city has secured for the pool project.

“I don’t know the answer to that question, but we’ll have to figure it out,” he said, noting the beach entry was initially viewed as a component of the core project.

Plans for to install a splash pad at the pool were recently bid separately and Mackenzie said that wouldn’t change though he predicted the list of items bid as alternates would be somewhat longer and the city is exploring work it could do to bring the project cost down.

Mackenzie said there will be a conversation – first with the consultant and ultimately with the council and interested members of a committee that assisted with developing the pool project – in coming months. He said he plans to put the project back out to bid by mid-February with a mid-March deadline for contractors.

“If we get good bids, it’s full steam ahead,” he said, expressing hope that by providing more lead time, an entire construction season and taking winter work out of the mix he will be able to cobble together a project the city can afford.

Mackenzie said Recreation Director Stephanie Quaranta is working on summer programs that will likely include a day camp for youth with the expectation the pool will be off limits – and hopefully under construction.

“That’s the plan,” he said.


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