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Concord begins second attempt at hiring contractor for Main Street project

Ed Roberge poses for a portrait on Main Street; November 30, 2012. As the city engineer of Concord,
 Roberge has been a large help to the Main Street redesign project. 
(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

Ed Roberge poses for a portrait on Main Street; November 30, 2012. As the city engineer of Concord, Roberge has been a large help to the Main Street redesign project. (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

Concord is trying again to find a contractor for its Main Street redesign project.

This summer, the city received an offer from just one contractor for the construction project, and it was for double the budgeted price. Officials blamed the lack of response on bad timing, because the documents were first issued to contractors during the middle of their construction season.

The city issued a new document requesting contract proposals this week, and City Engineer Ed Roberge said he expected it would yield a better outcome.

“I think we’re confident that we’ll get more than one proposal this time,” he said.

The project’s budget and timeline remain the same, Roberge said.

The city is redesigning Main Street with the help of a $4.71 million federal grant. Designs include reducing traffic from four lanes to two lanes with a crossable center median, widening sidewalks, adding landscaping and public art and improving accessibility.

About $6.2 million of the total $10.35 million total project estimate is budgeted for construction. (Other costs include design work and $2.5 million to move utilities underground on South Main Street.)

The only bid submitted in August, from Pembroke-based F.L. Merrill Construction, was for $12.23 million. City officials stood by their budget estimates and rejected the single proposal.

Construction was scheduled to begin this fall, but that start was delayed until spring.

Roberge said this week that the delay should not affect the overall schedule of the project, which has a completion date of early 2015. Work this fall would have only lasted until mid-November, because the city planned to halt work during the holiday season at the request of downtown merchants. Most of the work is scheduled for next year, and construction crews will return in the spring and early summer of 2015 to complete the project.

“I think that’s still true with this one,” Roberge said. “We thought that we would substantially complete the work in one construction year.”

Roberge said the federal government, which is contributing a $4.71 million grant to the project, required the city to release the bid document this summer.

The basics of the new bid document are the same as the first document, Roberge said. Construction work will be done at night if it would “require alternating one-way traffic on Main Street or severely impact on-street parking, pedestrian access, or local business operations along Main Street,” according to the city’s request for proposals.

“It’s really substantially the same,” Roberge said. “Again, timing wasn’t to our advantage when we released it before.”

New in the second bid are specifications about required materials, which Roberge said had previously raised questions from contractors.

“We wanted to make sure that any of the material spec, be it granite, be it lighting . . . that those materials be as locally available as possible,” he said. “That’s really what the intent is. . . . We did clarify that in the bid that’s out now.”

The bid document also now includes plans to make storefronts accessible on Main Street. Roberge said the city has worked with the federal grant to include accessibility improvements to storefronts in the project; the work to eliminate steps into storefronts will be completed at no cost to property owners.

Still unknown is whether the project will include heated sidewalks powered by waste heat from a new Concord Steam plant in the South End. The utility is still working to secure financing for its new facility. The construction of a snowmelt system of varying sizes is included as an option in the bid document but could change depending on the future of Concord Steam.

“That hinges on, again, available funding and the viability of the system itself,” Roberge said.

Though the document lists a completion date of September 2015, Roberge said the work will be completed before that date.

“We thought we would probably be in the April, May, June, maybe beginning of July time frame to fully complete the project,” he said. “And our Sept. 1 completion date allows us to get all the necessary paperwork.”

Contractors must submit proposals by Jan. 24. Roberge said work would begin as soon as weather permits, but likely at the end of March or beginning of April.

The city has already separately requested contractor bids to move utilities underground on South Main Street. Roberge said he has an “apparent low bidder” but has not yet awarded the contract. Utility work was also initially scheduled to begin this fall.

“The underground utility work isn’t all that substantial, so we think we can get in and out of there with the utility contractor pretty quickly,” Roberge said.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

Legacy Comments22

Looking for a lower bid ? Well just know that the lowest bid is not always the smart way to go . As they say " you get what you pay for". The low bid contractor will usually ask for more midway through the project (happens to the feds all the time) and before you know it he is getting huge overcasts. Frankly I try to stay away from Main street due to limited parking. This project will reduce the parking spaces even further and reduce the traffic flow by at least one lane. Does this really make sense to induce shoppers to come down town only to encounter more traffic congestion ? Whom ever submits a contact should be forced to itemize their proposed cost and not just plug in one total figure. That way one can see if the proposal is just a smoke screen.

I really do not understand the logic of trying to get people to GO to a downtown, any downtown. The reasons downtowns existed in the first place is because they were where people lived. I walk down Concord's Main Street and I see acres of unused second floor space. If people lived in that space they would BE downtown--shopping, walking, eating, buying. You wouldn't have to put in expensive boondoggles to get them there because they'd already be there. Can someone explain to me why this money isn't being spent to convert that second story space into housing instead of on a project no one wants, believes in or thinks will succeed? This is a serious question. There has to be some reason nobody's talking about something this obvious.

NOT a Government job - only a elite liberal could think that it is the Govts job to meddle with scarce public dollars where the market will always determine the will of the people

Would you please elaborate on the spending of tax $$$ " to convert that second story space into housing" . Under which political philosophy do you find the spending of the citizens hard earned tax $$$ to force a change on a private citizens property is a proper use of tax $$$$?

Why should taxpayers pay to have the landlord's places remodeled?

I don't think there is a contractor who will take this "Project" on for any amount of money!! This will be the death bell for downtown.Please leave the money in our pockets. The fat cats are only making excuse, the contractor that did bid on the job is bidding on the real cost of doing this. Give the money back to Obama please.

Here's your one person. Concord used to be thriving; I remember all the shops, restaurants, and little grocery stores that dotted Main Street in the 70's and 80's. The business owners for the most part are old - they can't or won't see the benefits of a younger demographic that is here. Leaving Concord as it is because it's always been that way is lazy thinking, much like the people who are too lazy to park and actually walk down the very streets they want to keep. It's not the money. Are we the only town in the US getting a grant like this? If it fails, I would blame it on the community, not the government. People whine in comment sections but I doubt few go to the public meetings to find out what is really happening. I'm past the half century mark, too, in case you were thinking I'm a 20 something looking for a bike/ped utopia. The state capital deserves more than what we have now - it's not a very nice place, and really hasn't been, for a very long time.

beautifying Main Street is NOT a government job regardless if BIG Govt has massive amount of the citizens hard earned money burning a hole in their coffers...especially when the Concord Monitor bridge need to be replaced

Knowing Main Street for over 40 years, it is simply not the "destination" that so many people want it to be. During construction, many businesses will go under and I am sure that the end result will be pleasing to the eye and those who support it will have an orgasmic gush but no matter what you do to Main Street, it will not turn into the nirvana of social engineering that it is envisioned to be. Perhaps that money would have been better spent on housing the homeless so that they don't have to live by the River.

ask yourself this - why has Starbucks decided to NOT put a shop down there?

Whoa! No venomous labeling! Actual insight! Who are you and what have you done with the Sailor?

It's clear to me why only one contractor bid on this project and why the bid was so high. This project is going to be a MAJOR headache for the contractor. Not because of technical or logistical issues but because it's so high profile and so controversial. Every Tom, Dick and Harry is going to be watching the work like a hawk and offering opinions on how the contractor should be doing his job and calling the City to complain about EVERY little fault--real or perceived. I already pity the poor superintendent who's going to be out there every day trying to get work done while simultaneously trying to parry questions and complaints from every citizen in Concord. That's why most contractors said "No thanks, I'm good." If this project was a coupe miles outside of town I think there'd be a big group of contractors bidding on it. As is, it's a tough sell to them unless the City promises to back the contractor up and take the lead with PR.

Well this is sort of like Obamacare and the Bearcat isn't it. A minority of high minded people decide what is best for everyone else and expect no criticism.

100% right as usual

That should have nothing to do with the contractor. But people love to complain to anyone so they will take it out on him.

I am still waiting to hear a positive comment about this project from just 1 person within the general public, who has lived here long enough to know first hand the 100% failure rate of every single previous Main Street project that has happened over the last 3 decades. This one will be the grand finale of them all.

I want the goal stated, plus a way to measure success or failure against that goal. That's the way business decisions are made. You want to spend $10+ million, but a few years down the road, how are you going to know if it was worth it? Answer, please?

You won't be able to measure success, until after you build it. Does that sound familiar in any way?

like a vampire - we need to thrust a silver stake in its heart during they day to kill this unwarranted use of public $$$$. In case liberals have not heard - WE ARE BROKE

Again, nothing to do with being liberal and everything to do with wealthy people who find our money burning a hole in their pockets. I totally agree this is a bad, bad use of money, an ill-fated project that should not happen.

massively liberal city council = direct connection

I wonder how many stores will go under, during construction?

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