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Downtown: Concord officials hopeful for third attempt to bid Main Street project

Megan Doyle, towns reporter. September 17, 2013 

(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

Megan Doyle, towns reporter. September 17, 2013 (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

Eight.

That’s the number of general contractors who have expressed an interest in Concord's Main Street construction project so far, during the city’s third attempt to bid the job.

“We are, I think, hopeful that it will be a successful process,” said Carlos Baia, deputy city manager for development.

But after the first two tries, that doesn’t mean much.

Those eight contractors attended a recent meeting required for any firms that want to submit a proposal for the construction work.

The first time around, the number of contractors at a similar required meeting also was eight.

The second, eight again.

But at the deadline for both prior attempts, only one of those contractors made an offer. And on both occasions, that offer came in at nearly double the city’s estimate.

The next deadline is Friday.

“We’ll obviously know much better then,” Baia said.

The Main Street project would redesign and rebuild 12 blocks of the downtown corridor, which the city projected would cost $10.35 million. A $4.71 million federal grant is supposed to cover part of that bill, and during its last

request for bids, the city’s estimate for construction was $7.1 million.

Upon Friday’s deadline, the city won’t get a firm price estimate, broken down into costs for items such as sidewalk slabs or light poles. In February, the city council gave staff and consultant engineering firm McFarland Johnson permission to use an alternative bidding process that allows for more negotiation.

Instead, any contractor that participates will submit its qualifications and a description of its approach to the Main Street project – including details such as the time of day the work would be done, or how the crews would accommodate downtown parking and traffic. Then, city staff will negotiate with a contractor to come up with a project scope and price, which would need to go to the council for approval.

That alternative process is what brought contractor Glenn Cairns, vice president of Windham-based George Cairns and Sons, to the table. He plans to submit a proposal Friday.

“It’s a new innovative way to collaborate on projects, and I just think it’s an interesting way to bid,” Cairns said.

Even though this is the city’s third attempt to bid the project, this is the first time Cairns has looked at the multimillion-dollar construction job.

“It’s a typical street reconstruction project,” Cairns said.

He paused.

“Well, I wouldn’t say it’s typical.”

Erika Payne, a project manager and estimator at Rochester-based S.U.R. Construction West Inc., said she has followed the Main Street project from its beginning. Payne didn’t participate during the first round because she said she didn’t have enough time to assemble her bid, and she missed a required pre-bid meeting during the second round.

But this time, Payne said her proposal will make it to the city Friday.

“This project has been a long time in the making,” she said.

Payne said her first experience with this alternative bidding process has been positive.

“I think it’s a good option,” she said. “Hopefully they can find a contractor that they can really partner with and work with them to get to the budget they really need.”

The two firms that made offers in the past – F.L. Merrill of Pembroke and E.D. Swett of Concord – aren’t among the general contractors that signed in at the required meeting. But five of the eight contractors who could submit proposals this week haven’t participated before.

“From our perspective, it’s always good to have as many contractors as possible participate,” Baia said. “We were pleasantly surprised to see new names because that shows there’s interest out there.”

City Engineer Ed Roberge described the pre-proposal meeting as “well-attended,” saying he hoped to see positive results Friday.

“I think we have interested contractors,” he said last week.

City Manager Tom Aspell was more cautious.

“Based on the pre-bid meetings, you never know,” Aspell said.

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

Seldom have politicians so much wanted a public works project that has been so disliked by the public and by the contractors who would have to execute this project. When this project is finished and we see the resultant traffic snarls/jams, politicians will want to spend even more money. This project looks great on a drawing board but it's really just another excuse to spend money.

This project has been through so many iterations, a simple communication from the city administration identify the total cost of the project including heated sidewalks, snow melt system, underground utilities, etc. would be beneficial. What concerns me is the gap between the $4.71 federal million and the $12- 13 million this article suggest the project will cost. That's $7 million dollars is being re-allocated from another budgetary purpose. The Manager recently commented that if the city does not take the state money for the heights project, the city would use other road monies for that task. So the question that begs to be answered is " what road monies are being re- allocated to the Main Street project to cover the gap?" A heated sidewalk would be nice, but the road I reside on is nearly impassable as are many others in my neighborhood. $7 million dollars could pave a bunch of city streets.

Dateline March 2172, after 71,000 failed tries Concord will get it's face lift. The head of the committee was heard to say how proud her mothers mother would be if she could see the work she started. Sometimes you just have to lighten up.

Would be interesting to see both projects put before a public referendum. I have to believe the results would be heavily lopsided against each plan, as proposed.

I don't see the political aspect of this project. It's not that at all. It's just a very bad plan that I hope never comes to fruition. Concord deserves so much more than the lame projections for Main Street, and Loudon Road for that matter. Once done, the Pennacook tribe wouldn't even want the town back. We can do better in both regards.

“It’s a new innovative way to collaborate on projects, and I just think it’s an interesting way to bid,” No, it's not actually. It's called construction management. Been around since the 50's.

Typical reconstruction project? Smart of Cairns to pull that one back in a hurry. It's been anything but 'typical'. Debacle would be more appropriate. Compounding matters, they're bidding on an ill-conceived plan. Reduced lanes, diminished parking and heated sidewalks. What, no jet-packs? This one should go back to the drawing board for a total rethink. Do appreciate the pics of the cute reporter, though.

Worse than that is that this project and the Heights project are wildly unpopular and people are against them, only a minority, public employees and politicians want either project. They are so arrogant that they are not listening to the people. Just another example of government with too much power.

OK. I'l bite. Just why would public employee's want this project? Just one reason besides because. These are not politicians making these decisions, these are bureaucrats.

Public employees are for big government and most support the expansion of government projects. If you think that the bureaucrats involved are not politically aligned, you are naive.

You really have no clue about public employee's do you. I would to set you straight but doubt you will listen. Not all public employee's are the same. The vast majority are just people that work like anyone else and are completely insulated from politics. So no the average worker is only concerned with their job. When you reach the level of upper management and commissioners and the multitude of assistants and assistant deputy and so on, the world of bureaucrats. That is where politics enters the game and screws the system from the top down. Not the bottom up. I was a state employee for awhile and the horror stories I could tell. If you think the public employee unions lift a finger for members, I have news, only if it's in the unions best interest.

Eight contractors who would love to ruin Main Street in Concord. My guess is that they will not come in at the optimum price and if they do, there will be cost overruns.

democrats will ram this thing through regardless of the expense to taxpayers. democrats simply dont know the difference between "NEEDS" and WANTS" ..... and they never turn down those so-called "FREE" $$$$$$$

Democrats. Please give us a break. There are no R's or D's by any of these folks names when we vote for them.

Concord traditionally votes Democrat and in that case one can assume that they vote their ideology in local elections. For instance the mayor, a bleeding heart social engineer.

As usual, you don't know what you're talking about. My councilman is without a doubt, not a Democrat. BTW, are you from Concord? If not your opinion is irrelevant. It's a Yankee tradition to mind your own business in situations like these, and that goes for the rest of you posters who aren't from Concord.

"your opinion is irrelevant..".........Your tax money....... isn't

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