Bridge opening, bridge work top meeting
by Margo Avakian
Nov 08, 2012 | 846 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HALIFAX- At the month’s first meeting, held early to avoid conflict with the election, selectboard chair Lewis Sumner happily announced that the Reed Hill bridge is finished and open. No more circuitous detour to and from the post office.

Discussion of the Deer Park Road bridge was a bit less cheerful. The town has not yet finalized an agreement with SVE, the bridge’s engineers, to oversee and document its construction. Careful, detailed documentation is required by FEMA.

Recovery project manager Christina Moore expressed dissatisfaction with SVE’s oversight of the Reed Hill project at a previous meeting, leading the board to ask for a scope of work description that makes all requirements explicit. SVE wrote the requested scope of work. Asked for her opinion on the document, Moore said, “I’d give it a solid C. It meets minimum specifications.” Pointing out that SVE “did not include time frames for themselves” in the document, Moore said she considers “quality, timeliness, and billing ... inadequate.”

Moore cited as an example of frustrating behavior, the disappearance of the steel I-beams from the old bridge. Federal procurement rules prohibit contractors from making a profit from the project’s salvage, and the beams are considered to be town property. The SVE rep appears not to know what happened to them, simply shrugging when asked. Both SVE and Cold River were present at the pre-bid meeting where the procurement rules were discussed, so the beams cannot have been taken away through ignorance. Moore said that she has a hard time in general getting information from SVE.

Highway supervisor Bradley Rafus is also unhappy about the missing beams. “The work was done before the pre-construction meeting,” Rafus said. “No one in the town knew the work was being done,” Rafus said, a statement confirmed by board member Earl Holtz. Rafus is also unhappy with the detour set up by the contractors, considering it somewhat hazardous. “If they’d followed the rules, we wouldn’t have had this discussion,” Rafus said.

The board voted to send a letter to both firms formally demanding the return of the beams. Rafus and Moore will collaborate on a second letter outlining the safety and other rules that must be followed.

But that did not mean the board was ready to decide against awarding the oversight contract to SVE, despite Moore’s recommendation that they do so. Moore suggested hiring Frank Maltese as clerk of the works, citing his years of work experience and his status as a local resident.

Board member Edee Edwards opposed the idea for a number of reasons. Edwards pointed out that if the town creates a new position, absent emergency conditions, the job would have to be advertised and all candidates interviewed. To do otherwise, Edwards said, would invite possible liability problems. Edwards does not want to delay the project with a lengthy hiring process.

Further, Edwards is not convinced that the problems Moore has had working with SVE are unresolvable, nor does she see the cost overrun on the Reed Hill project oversight as significant, citing changes and delays that pushed the cost over the original estimate.

Holtz was concerned about the cost overage; he also wanted to know whether Cold River has sent a work plan to SVE, as requested. Holtz strongly stated his view that SVE’s oversight estimate cannot be accurate if it is not pegged to the contractor’s work plan. Edwards argued that SVE’s experience and general knowledge of bridge building reduced the importance of the work plan.

Ultimately, the board agreed to ask about the work plan, clarify the scope of work document, and add no new complications to the project.

Moore reported that FEMA has, as expected, rejected the Hale Road bridge project because of the extra length required to meet Agency of Natural Resources standards. Moore has resubmitted it as an “improved project.”

Rafus reported there was no road damage from Hurricane Sandy. “We didn’t really get any severe tree damage, either,” Rafus added. Both Rafus and Sumner have spoken to John Alexander, of VTrans, who said there was little damage in the county as a whole.

Edwards, commenting that follow-through on their pre-storm planning was not up to snuff, suggested practice runs aimed at “getting the EOC up and running in an hour.” Holtz, Sumner, and Rafus agreed it would be useful. “Personally,” said Rafus, “I’d like to see something outside of the VY drills.” It was a popular suggestion. “I think we would benefit from it,” Holtz declared emphatically.

In other business, the board scheduled its first budget meeting for November 17 at 9 am. That meeting will address the general town budget; the highway budget will be dealt with at a future meeting.
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