Public Safety Building: project bids due before Town Meeting; RFP being issued for solar canopies (Updated)

Above: Bids for constructing the public safety complex should come in by the beginning of April. Among them the Town is seeking proposals for a standard cruiser carport and alternative solar canopies (top image from PSBC materials, bottom left cropped from Classic Carports and right from Carport Structures)

RFPs will be issued this week for Southborough’s Public Safety Building project. In hopes of cutting over $300K in expenses, the Town will also soon issue an RFP for solar canopy carports. Selectmen approved pursuing the option after last week’s update from the PSB Committee.

Jason Malinowski summarized the project’s Final Cost Estimates. The figure is $325K higher than the estimate given to voters last year. That’s still $1.75 million less than approved with contingency funding. (I’m interpreting that as putting the current estimate close to $21M.)*

Malinowski said the figure went up $125K since last presented to selectmen due to increased demand for electricians. But he expressed hope that bids will come in lower based on the competitive process. 11 general contractors and over 90 subcontractors made it through the pre-qualification phase. 

There is an issue that could up the project costs. The PSBC hopes it found a way around that through a solar project.

The overall estimate doesn’t include canopies previously requested over cruisers and Fire Department Trailers. With estimates at $300K and $150K, the PSBC was concerned about them eating into the contingency funds. The Fire Chief approved eliminating his canopies. But Police Chief Paulhus continued to push that the cruisers need covering. 

The PSBC pulled the canopies from the base bid, but included the cruiser canopy as a an add-alternate. Members believe a company may be willing to pay for the full cost of constructing a canopy with solar panels on top. Malinowski asked to issue a separate RFP for that, to which he expects a favorable response. He said the Town might even get some of the utility income stream. 

Selectmen unanimously authorized Purple to issue an RFP. But Chair Dan Kolenda was less optimistic of the plan than the PSBC Chair. 

Kolenda raised worries about solar’s hidden costs. He said that when the Town investigated solar projects in the past, liabilities were too big. He referred to costs the Town could have borne for replacing broken panels.

Town Administrator Mark Purple added that past offers would have allowed vendors to walk away if something happened. But he echoed Malinowski’s promise that an RFP would seek to meet Town’s legal needs. And if proposals didn’t pass muster, the Town wouldn’t enter a contract.

Kolenda said he would support a project as long as risks were mitigated. 

Upon questioning, Malinowski explained that panels aren’t also being considered for the building roof to avoid objections from abutters about visual impacts. 

The solar bid deadline will be at the same time as all the project bids are due – four days before Annual Town Meeting. Proposals will be accepted electronically.

That means, officials should have good numbers to share with voters. Just don’t expect them to make a final bid selection pre-meeting.

It’s more than too tight timing. Malinowski anticipates that the bid selection may be partially determined by the outcome of some ATM votes. Bidders are being asked to include proposals for three bid alternatives, two of them built around Warrant Articles. 

The third of those bids is for a cruiser canopy. If a solar option isn’t viable, the PSBC will ask selectmen whether or not support funding the bid alternate option. (Though, he later said the Town could always pursue canopies further down the road. Building plans include wiring for connection to future cannopies so the parking lot wouldn’t need to be dug up.)

The second alternate is for re-hooking up a relocated golf course Clubhouse and everything else needed to get it “back online”. 

The first alternate is for the retaining wall and parking lot that would be funded by Community Preservation Act articles. (CPA Articles would also ask to replace golf course holes 9 and 1.)

Malinowski explained that alternates are tiered to allow voters to reject supporting the golf course (and therefore clubhouse) but still support use of the Open Space. If voters support spending on keeping the golf course open, both alternate bids 1 and 2 would be accepted.

Kolenda wondered if PSBC knew of any anti-golf course movement. Malinowski said he wasn’t aware of one. But their responsibility was to keep the building project moving forward in any contingency.

*Malinowski didn’t give the total figure. I’m basing the approx $21M on Malinowski’s “$325 more” and his reminder that the cost approved at ATM (which was approx $22.6M) included $2M in contingency costs. The PSBC Chair said updated estimates were based on “substantially complete construction plans”.

Updated (2/28/17 11:28 am): I updated the cruiser canopy sections of the post after learning from Malinowski that I misunderstood some of his statements. Previously, I indicated that Chief Paulhus had pulled the cruiser canopy. Malinowski tells me that the Chief continued to push their importance.  

In addition, a future vote he referred to on the cruiser will be by selectmen, not Town Meeting voters. (Which makes much more sense, since the scope and funding are well covered by the original Article on the Public Safety Building passed last March.)

Malinowski also wanted to clarify the section I summarized on the Warrant Articles:

The main reason that the parking lot/retaining wall and the golf clubhouse appear as two add alternates is because of the way that the Town is approaching the funding and warrant article. CPA funds would be used, if approved, for the parking lot/retaining wall and funds from borrowing would be used for the golf club house. We needed a way to segregate these costs for sourcing of the funds. In addition, it also provides the fall back plan that I outlined at the meeting that if voters were to chose to support the CPC sponsored article and not the Clubhouse article, you’d still have parking for the town to use the Open Space until the Golf items were resolved. I think that part of the discussion overshadowed the true intention which was to separate the funding due to sourcing requirements.

As a point of clarification, an add-alternate is an item that the Town can accept or reject when we receive the bid responses, as oppose to the base bid, which means that we have to accept the lowest price bidder. Given that funding was not appropriated yet to the parking lot/retaining wall and clubhouse items, it was impossible to include them in the base bid as no funding would have been available to pay the contractor.

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marcel proust
6 years ago

What a great idea. REI store in Framingham has solar carports for all their parking, and it generates most, if not all, of the store’s power.

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