By Chris Maza
EAST LONGMEADOW – Recreation Director Colin Drury said he was “pleasantly surprised” by the bids received for the Pine Knoll Recreation Center’s pool replacement project and hopes to have approval for work to begin shortly.
“Everyone who bid on the project was under the budget we had for the project, so it was good to see that the market is right where we thought it was supposed to be,” he said. “We have an apparent low bidder. First we need the [Board of Public Works] to agree to recommend the bid, then the Board of Selectmen will have to grant it final approval.”
The pool replacement was necessary because the existing pool is currently not in compliance with the Pool SAFE Act, which requires that pools be in line with Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines. The pool also loses 4,000 gallons of water a day due to cracks and leaks in the system, which increases repair and water expenses.
The proposed new pool would be L-shaped with a beach entry, which qualifies as a handicap accessible entrance, and a handicap lift. It would also have a solar-powered heating system and state-of-the-art filtration system.
Kurtz Inc. General Contractors of Westfield was the lowest bidder at $687,892. Residents approved the use of up to $800,000 for the project.
The Board of Public Works is scheduled to meet next on Jan. 28.
With that in mind, Drury hopes to have work begin within the next month or so and said Pine Knoll should be able to host its regular programming.
“We should be breaking ground during the month of February,” he said. “It’s a quick process. In preliminary talks with [Kurtz Inc.], they don’t see any problem with being on target and being able to open up Pine Knoll this summer for our summer program.”
Getting the ball rolling on the project was significantly hampered by funding issues related to the development of a budget for the construction.
Residents initially approved a $450,000 expenditure that Drury requested at the Oct. 1, 2012 Annual Town Meeting, based on a budget developed by Nationwide Aquatic Consulting. However, when the town went out to bid, it received just one response with a price of $735,000.
With that bid in mind, the town looked to Bargmann Hendrie + Archetype Inc. to review the figures and compile and estimate. The consultant determined that $800,000 would be a proper budget to complete the project with room for contingencies, such as increase in cost of materials and the possibility of unforeseen hazards.
Residents voted to approve the additional $350,000 in Community Preservation Act funds at the Oct. 21, 2013 Annual Town Meeting.
“We now have the correct information and that’s why we went to the town the second time – because we knew someone had given us the wrong information before and that this person was correct because we did receive a bid from a company,” Drury said. “I think people understood there was one part of the project that we couldn’t control and of course that’s always the part that’s going to give you a little hiccup as part of the full process.
“It didn’t make us look too good and it wasn’t fun standing up there in front of the town, but I think we have reasonable people here in East Longmeadow who did realize that that part was out of our control and we did our best to regain control after the issue happened,” he continued.
Drury added that East Longmeadow has a strong and growing number of residents who support and take advantage of the Recreation Department and that was a major factor in getting the funding approved. In 2012, he said, 4,900 participants came to the Recreation Department’s office. In his first year as the Recreation Director, that number jumped to 5,400, and this year he is budgeting for 5,800 participants. Pine Knoll’s summer camp serves roughly 1,500 children each year.
Addressing the faulty information received by Nationwide Aquatic Consulting, Drury said the town has no recourse in getting reimbursed for the expense of its study and subsequent studies that were required.
“There’s nothing the town can do. I had the opportunity to speak with town counsel [James Donahue] and essentially we paid the company to give us a budget for our project and that’s exactly what he did; he just did a bad job,” he said. “That company wasn’t trying – or I hope they weren’t trying – to do a bad job for us, and the person who did it has been in this business for over 20 years, so it was a very big surprise to us that we received that information and that it was wrong.”