Hi 24° | Lo 17°

Only one contractor responds to city’s second request for Main Street construction bids

In the most recent draft of plans redesigning Main Street presented to the Concord City Council the clock tower is moved from in front of Eagle Square south to a spot in front of The Works and Phenix Avenue is converted to a pocket park.

In the most recent draft of plans redesigning Main Street presented to the Concord City Council the clock tower is moved from in front of Eagle Square south to a spot in front of The Works and Phenix Avenue is converted to a pocket park.

Concord again received only one offer for Main Street construction, and it was even higher than the lone offer that came in during the city’s first attempt to bid the project.

The city’s base estimate is $7.1 million for streetscape construction. During the public bid meeting yesterday, Purchasing Manager Doug Ross announced the city received a proposal of $13.83 million from Concord-based E.D. Swett Inc. Messages left with that company yesterday were not returned.

City Engineer Ed Roberge declined to comment at the bid meeting, but earlier this week, he told the Monitor he hoped the city would receive five or six bids.

Based on the number of general contractors who attended required pre-bid meetings, the city could have received as many as six proposals.

“We’ll have to see how high they come in,” Roberge said Wednesday. “It’s hard to speculate, but if they’re like the first bid that was at $12 million, we’d probably have no choice in rejecting and likely starting over . . . but we’ll have to see.”

This is the city’s second try to bid the construction project. In September, Concord also received only one offer from Pembroke-based F.L. Merrill Construction. At that time, the city’s estimate for construction was $6.2 million, but the single proposal came in at $12.23 million.

City officials rejected that proposal, and reissued the request for bids in November. Construction is scheduled to begin this spring, and was supposed to be done predominantly at night.

Yesterday, Mayor Jim Bouley said he was disappointed this attempt was not more successful than the first.

“We’ve now done this two times,” Bouley said. “Not once. We’ve done it twice.”

As the city council considers the project’s future, the mayor said he wanted to revisit the estimate provided by McFarland Johnson, the consulting engineering firm on this project.

Bouley also suggested the city could turn to the Federal Highway Administration for advice on how to scale back this project. A $4.71 million grant from the federal government would pay for part of the Main Street redesign.

“Well, I’m disappointed. . . . I think we’re going to go back to see why the consultants came up with the numbers they did,” Bouley said.

Engineer Gene McCarthy from McFarland Johnson said he was surprised to see a contractor yet again propose a price nearly double his company’s estimate for construction. The design includes reducing the road from four lanes to two lanes with a crossable center median, widening sidewalks and improving accessibility.

“There will be a lot more information as we look at the details, and get a better understanding of where their prices were and where ours were,” McCarthy said.

He declined to comment on how the engineering firm calculated its own estimate. E.D. Swett Inc. also estimated its construction costs if building were to take place during the day, as opposed to at night. That cost – $12.59 million – is still significantly higher than the price from McFarland Johnson.

It only took Ross about six minutes to present the lone bid from E.D. Swett yesterday. After the meeting, Carlos Baia, deputy city manager for development, said he would need to discuss the future of the project with the council.

“I think it is too soon for us to know,” Baia said.

Roberge said earlier this week the poor response to the first request for bids was due to bad timing; the city was required by its grant schedule to ask for proposals during the summer construction season.

The plans were more specific about required materials this time around, Roberge said, and more contractors asked pointed questions about finishes or other details.

“All of those little questions show people are looking really minutely at the pans,” Roberge said Wednesday. “Those are the types of questions that we’re getting.”

But too many questions weren’t answered until the last days before the deadline, said Josh Horan, who had been interested in building the snow-melt system as a subcontractor. Horan is a local employee of the Minneapolis-based company Uponor.

The city did release more information about the project, but Horan speculated that those details came too late for some of the interested parties to respond.

“Based upon what I saw, for last-minute information being shared, I’m not surprised there was only one bid,” Horan said.

Unlike Horan, some city councilors were surprised.

“We were pretty much assured that doing it at this point would attract a lot more contractors at a much more reasonable number, or one that is within our (price) expectation,” said At-Large Councilor Fred Keach.

At-Large Councilor Steve Shurtleff said the city would now have to reconsider “the whole idea of the project.”

“I think we are all looking forward to a refurbished Main Street and the positive impact that would have on the citizens of Concord. . . . I think in light of the bid we received today, it’s going to slow down that momentum at least,” Shurtleff said.

For At-Large Councilor Mark Coen, the heart of the project shouldn’t be abandoned even if other components need to be cut.

“There’s a core project on Main Street, and it’s about the street itself and the new configuration of the street,” Coen said. “And I really feel very strongly about heated sidewalks, the idea of making storefronts (accessible), that’s really the core thing.”

Ward 4 Councilor Byron Champlin, who represents the downtown area, echoed the disappointment of other councilors.

“I’m not sure in what direction the city goes at this juncture . . . but it would seem that this means we have to take a very hard look at the proposal and the cost estimates, and assess where the discrepancy exists between the assumed cost of the project and where it’s coming in from contractors,” he said.

The city will now review the bid it has received – and its options for the future of the Main Street project.

“I don’t see how the project goes forward with a price tag like what came out today,” Keach said.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)


New committees to consider Concord’s policies for developers

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The city council will spend even more time talking about economic development in Concord this year. Mayor Jim Bouley plans to draft three new committees of councilors only that could affect city policies on building and redevelopment projects: one on the rollout of the Main Street project, one on the impact fees required for new developments and one on upper-story …

Legacy Comments17

The city council and others need to stop looking at pretty pictures. I will admit that those small tables might be a pleasant touch for the homeless. What's that you say, wrong crowd? I don't care how you dress it up, there is nothing to do in downtown Concord. At least in early seventies there were a couple of real movie theaters compared with today's none. Red River, don't make me laugh. There are some nice niche stores but what else. A waste of money, a waste of time and a waste of computer generated pipe dreams. You two, yes you, really should get your act together. This is no democratic boondoggle, Mr. Duprey's fingerprints are all over it as well main street property owners with dreams of more rent.

The question begs, are those small tables anywhere near the uh-Red-uh-River-uh-Theeeeeaterrrrr. I think not, they are segregated so the the beautiful people can feel good about those folks having a pleasant touch and the snob zone from not having to deal with those people they feign concern about. I usually don't agree with you, hardly ever but in this case you are spot on.

I agree and bring up additional points.There is not enough to offer to raise rents that are already higher than needs to be for ill cared for substandard housing. Run by landlords with very questionable ethics. Among other issues there is not enough buildings being accessible to the disabled and elderly . Addressing limited mass transit to benefit high priced cabs. There seems to be less about serving the community then serving profiteering and exploitation of the lower income people and the very real needs they have. If you want to raise the income of the city then you need to invest in those who live here and raising their standard of living. Rebuilding the manufacturing industry and having affordable housing and Industrial education. Enough with the pipe dreams of a city of white collar incomes. We have more than we need of office space and little to see that the homeless have housing and services enough to get them off the street and working at jobs with a living wage. Instead you see then stigmatized and jailed when one arrest denies them their dignity and housing. The only jobs are for lowest wage service industry with a high turnover of those businesses because they can't stay open because there is just not enough able to afford more than the dollar menus at mc Ds or burger king. and could you please think about bicycles pedicabs and street vending. The city council and mayor needs to drag their heads out of the clouds and shed special interests that have their hands in the pockets of the city.

Now is not the time. Concord has just rebuilt the school building needs and the economy isn't great enough to support that kind of tax increase. This is not needed and mostly fluff as it really isn't a destination city, just a state capitol.

Twice in one week, we agree, must be a full moon.

When I see things like this, right away I'm thinking design problems. That is usually when contractors begin to shy away from projects like this. Higher difficulty level equals less interest and/or higher bids. I'm also wondering how much effort the city put into the pre-bid meetings. Six contractors attended yet only one bidder. Didn't anyone at the pre-bid meetings get a sense for that? The city needs to sort out the problem areas and perhaps think about breaking up the work and bidding the contracts separately. That means an extended completion date but we have to be open to what works. Restricted traffic flow is not the problem, that is a given anytime you do road construction. Make use of other streets, convert some two-ways to one way or vise versa. The thing about retainage, this project has FHWA funding so no retainage is allowed (for the person making that comment). The city also does a good job at making payments, but perhaps they can pay twice monthly instead of monthly. Maybe smaller companies could then get involved. How about the fear of working on a federally funded job? Did anyone offer up front training to contractors so to ease those fears? Start thinking like a contractor and you'll begin to see the light.

Utter waste of money. If Main Street can't handle 2 lanes in both directions, how is it going to handle 1 lane in each direction. Look at the configuration of the sidewalks, bike racks, trash cans and other obstacles, how the heck are they going to plow the sidewalks? The heated sidewalks aren't going to handle a significant amount of snow. The fools designing these plans should have to go out and do the maintenance, they are fools and everything looks great on paper. Any store that is on the fence and struggling will surely end up out of business. Anybody that is pushing for this is clearly clueless. Work on a project that really needs to be done, say like the Sewalls Falls bridge?! Come on people, get your heads out of the sand.....

A high visibility project; unrealistic cost projections by the government; expensive night construction; and, in the end, turning downtown Concord into one humongous traffic jam -- this is what any prospective contractor is considering. It should come as no surprise that almost all of the most reputable construction firms that paid for the bid package, examined it and said, "Thanks, but no thanks."

WASTE of taxpayer money - I hope this democrat pipe dream of unnecessary downtown BEAUTIFICATION goes down in flames. ... meanwhile the Sewalls Falls bridge decays away as the democrats prioritize a new library, a new White Park Taj Mahal, 3 lane Loudon Road. What the democrats need to do for the taxpayers is to go into hibernation for a few years and leave the Taxpayers alone. Post 1 of 12 on 1/25

You make excellent points. They are spending money like drunken sailors. That is the mission of progressives. I laugh every time I see you list your post count (1 of 12 on 1/25). They are getting pretty sensitive, yesterday I was told that I had posted 184 since the first of the year and only one person has posted more.....congrats Sail. Yes, I was attacked by the overly sensitive moderation department because they took what I posted OUT OF CONTEXT! II give them credit for at least posting my reply. I think that we are rubbing them the wrong way. Be careful Sail.

Saying the same things over and over does not make something true. I could give more credence to your views if you could only manage to see issues in some context other than democrat vs. whatever you call yourselves.

It is undoubtedly about desired profit, as is a main aspect of all sales negotiations. The massive politics involved with a project like this as opposed to paving an Interstate with asphalt is in play here. I know a master electrician who doubles his estimate if he doesn't want to do a particular job for whatever reason(s). If the prospective customer is willing to pay the higher rate, then he is willing to do the job in spite of "x" concerns that give him cause for concern and raises his desired profit for a particular job. Whatever the reasons, expressed or not, for the construction estimates are basic aspects of a sales negotiation. The City of Concord isn't getting some sort of discount or good deal on re-doing Main St!

Desired profit?? Not exactly. You go on to explain how a tradesman will double his price if he doesn't want the job. So, it's not that contractors don't want to make a profit. It that contractors don't want this job -- and the headaches they see going with it.

1.) When is the City going to get a second opinion on McFarland Johnson, instead of head scratching over the bid results again? 2.) If you restrict the flow of traffic on Main Street, then where is the traffic going to go? Since the City is proposing a similar plan on Loudon Rd., how do City planners envision this as a positive concept? Have they visited downtown Laconia to see how well it worked out there? 3.) Have City planners visited Newburyport MA? The downtown area is a recreational setting. The primary traffic flow travels on High St. or Rte. 1, and then trickles in to downtown through "feeder streets". In my opinion if the City restricts the flow of traffic on Main St. then it becomes too much aggravation to shop there. There is no doubt in my mind that if a great downtown store like Joe King's were in a strip mall setting their sales would dramatically increase. As planners apparently try to steer downtown to a "chic" atmosphere they need to be aware of the revenue they will be driving away with this plan.

I think the city should take the deal. Unlike gen x er, I think if its only double the estimate its probably about right. Concord residents can make up the difference, and the council should have no problem selling this increase to them.

Contractors don't want to take on this project because of the drama and politics involved. It's right downtown of NH's capital city. One can easily picture state lawmakers walking around Main St nitpicking every little detail. Same thing with business owners and residents who happen to be passing through the area. The complaints are going to be endless! The cost estimate cannot take into account something like this. It's an intangible cost that is different to every contractor. Had this project been in another part of the city, the estimate would have been on-the-mark, as they usually are. It's no wonder Nashua just re-did part of their downtown using their own men and equipment. The only way the city is going to get a reasonable bid is if they can assure contractors that they will spearhead handling the complaints and work hand-in-hand with the contractor to solve any problems.

This is not an engineering problem, this is not a contractor problem, this is a city of concord government problem. Contractors, and there are many who have worked for the city, have very good memories. Lack of interest may be the result of payment for work completed and retainage withheld. 60/90/120 days to get paid and up to a year to get retainage released is poor. Directing road contractors to suspend work without notice is ridiculous or identified in proposals to stop work for events such as Election Day or downtown market days when work is just a mile away from these events. The additional specifications in this contract to appease business owners, such as window washing storefronts, is absurd. X-er you are correct that interjection by green street would be a burden worthy of doubling the bid, exampled by the mayor wanting a second opinion on why the only bid they received was high; he should look in the mirror.

Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.