Work continues on fire station project in Peterborough

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 5/22/2023 2:18:27 PM
Modified: 5/22/2023 2:15:56 PM

“There’s been so much work that’s been done since last year,” said Assistant Town Administrator and Director of Public Works Seth MacLean, speaking on the proposed fire station project on Elm Street.

At Town Meeting last year, voters approved a $1.3 million bond for design and engineering of the project and the use of $700,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Prior to the 2022 Town Meeting, the town had been considering a $23 million municipal campus project, but due to concerns over size and cost and the fact that the bond would put Peterborough over its state-mandated debt limit, the town had to take a step back and reconsider the scope of the project.

This year, “It’s very important to me that we’re getting important information out,” said MacLean. 

After touring facilities ranging from $3 million to $11 million in Keene, Swanzey, Dover, Somersworth, Newbury and Westford and Groton in Massachusetts and meeting with fire chiefs, city managers and staff, MacLean said, “We had a good sample in mind of different facilities around the region.”

In October, the Select Board provided a target of not exceeding 70 percent of the town’s total bond capacity for the project, which in fiscal 2025 is projected to be $12,150,863. 

The town had three options for delivering the project: design/bid/build, design/build or construction manager at risk. Ninety percent of projects in the Northeast and 40 percent nationwide use the construction management method, including most of the facilities toured by the town. Peterborough chose this method, citing advantages such as detailed and transparent costs and cost estimating, the fact that the construction manager works directly for the town, less risk for the project owner and increased community input. 

MacLean recommended that the town create an RFQ development/selection team for the project composed of board and committee members and staff: Select Board project liaison Bill Taylor, Fire Chief Ed Walker, Budget Committee Chair Carl Mabbs-Zeno, Code Enforcement Officer Tim Herlihy, Planning Board member Sarah Steinberg-Heller, Community Power Committee Co-Chair Tony Cassady, Treasurer and Budget Committee member Mandy Sliver, co-Chair of the Affordable Housing Committee Carol Nelson and MacLean as project manager.

After going to bid this spring, the selection team chose Harvey Construction as construction manager for the project. MacLean said they are now under contract with the town for pre-construction services. 

At a meeting in May, the Select Board agreed to waive the town’s purchasing policy to work with Hoyle Tanner as civil engineer for the project rather than going to bid. MacLean said the town has worked with Hoyle Tanner for 10 years, including on both the library and Main Street Bridge projects.

“We have extensive experience working with this firm,” said MacLean.

Mabbs-Zeno said going to bid would delay the process “with little prospect of finding a better firm for quality of work and no chance of finding an alternative with comparable knowledge of this site.”

“Most importantly, the firm won the selective process for the previous stage of design and has the experience of testing the site and working through options for locating,” said Mabbs-Zeno, who added that Harvey Construction also strongly endorsed Hoyle Tanner. “Any prospect of cost saving would be minor since the civil engineering role in this project is relatively small and we are advised by our construction managers that the rates among civil engineering firms are highly competitive.”

MacLean also said going to bid would require more staff hours, paid for by taxpayers, and since Hoyle Tanner is familiar with the project and will be billed hourly, this will also most likely save money. This also allows Hoyle Tanner to work directly for the town instead of being hired and working under the architect, which will give the town more control over the project.

“After the work they did for us on the Main Street Bridge project, I have complete confidence they are the right partner to move forward with on this one,” said Taylor.

In the last couple weeks, the town has sent out requests for quotes to 16 architectural firms and advertised solicitations for bids. The town will go through the same scoring process that it went through to during the construction management selection process, and MacLean said it hopes to have an architect by the middle of June. 

MacLean also said officials are working to engage the public, including requesting feedback and questions on online platforms, holding community input events and meetings. The goal is to bring a responsible project to the community prior to developing the budget this fall. 

“I believe the project is on very good footing,” said MacLean.

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