Tisbury town hall stair repair project a tough climb
Repairing the stairs at Tisbury town hall seemed to be a simple project last May. Instead, it developed into an epic tale with a blend of familiar Vineyard themes, including historical preservation, affordable housing, and unemployment, along with challenges such as presidential logistics, state contracting rules, and wrought-iron craftsmanship.
Tisbury voters approved the appropriation of $96,750 from Community Preservation Act funds for town hall repairs in April 2008, in addition to funds remaining from an appropriation approved in April 2006.
Town administrator John Bugbee reported that Campbell Construction in Peabody bid $117,700, the lowest of all bidders on the town hall project to repair the stairs, replace windows, and repair and repaint the steeple at town hall at a selectmen's meeting on April 21, 2009. Campbell also bid $26,500 for metal work. South Shore Welding from Lakeville was the only sub-bidder on the replacement wrought-iron railings.
Mindful of unemployment and local contractors looking for work, Mr. Bugbee said in a phone call this week, "I speak for everyone involved when I say that we would have loved to see this work go to an Island entity."
Unfortunately, he added, "I'm not aware of any Island construction company or sub-bid category company that is Division of Capital Asset Management (DCAM) certified." Mr. Bugbee did contact DCAM to see if the town could get a waiver for that requirement, but was told no. Under the state's procurement laws, contractors must be certified by the DCAM in order to submit prime bids on public building projects estimated to cost more than $100,000 for the construction, reconstruction, installation, demolition, maintenance, or repair of any publicly owned building. Certification also is required for sub-bids for 18 categories of work, which includes ornamental iron.
In addition to the time-consuming bid process, Mr. Bugbee said the project plans had to be approved by the Tisbury Historical Commission and the Massachusetts Historical Commission, which took about six to eight weeks. The Tisbury town hall is included in the William Street Historic District and on the National Register of Historical Places in Massachusetts.
The need for the stair repair became more urgent on May 12, when a rotted step collapsed under a fire fighter's foot as he climbed the stairs on his way to an emergency service facility meeting. He was not injured. The town Department of Public Works cordoned off the staircase and made temporary repairs.
At the Tisbury selectmen's July 14 meeting, Mr. Bugbee announced the town hall project would start the next week. Although housing often is a problem for off-Island contractors, Campbell Construction already had arrangements for housing the crew through previous jobs on Martha's Vineyard.
Their plans fell apart, however, when the landlord informed them that the housing had been rented out for the week before, during, and after President Barrack Obama's visit to Martha's Vineyard on August 23-30. With no available or affordable housing alternatives, the crew had to delay the project's start. When work did resume, there were more surprises. Mr. Bugbee said when the bid went out for the project, the work was specified as 75 percent repair and 25 percent replace. However, when the contractor opened up the staircase and found a lot of water-saturated, rotted wood inside, it became a matter of 90 percent replace and 10 percent repair.
With that discovery, building and zoning inspector Ken Barwick recommended to Mr. Bugbee and selectman chairman Tristan Israel that the stair skirts, and columns and ceiling under the stair landing and above the entrance to town hall also should be replaced. That work, in turn, resulted in having to shore up a couple of joists on the stair platform, Mr. Barwick said.
At his suggestion, cedar trim was used instead of pine, because it is more durable. He also recommended mahogany for some of the stair repairs.
Since the project turned out to be more extensive and expensive than anticipated, Mr. Bugbee requested a change order and an additional $3,071, which the selectmen approved in October.
In the meantime, the wrought iron fabricator from South Shore Welding had to wait until the stairs were completed to get exact measurements for the railings. Once those were taken, it took four weeks to fabricate the railings, Mr. Bugbee said. Then the railings had to be shipped to one of only two plants in Massachusetts that does color galvanization, a process that involves dipping the wrought iron railing in zinc coating and then painting it.
The problem is, wrought iron must be painted within 12 hours of being dipped, Mr. Bugbee said. That added more time to the process because of scheduling challenges for the small and busy painting division.
This week, however, Mr. Bugbee got the good news that the railing was completed and taken back to South Shore Welding for the addition of brass handrails.
Better yet, Mr. Bugbee said, "The railing is going to be installed Monday morning and hopefully finished by Tuesday. Campbell Construction will be here to help with that, in addition to putting in the second floor windows, and hopefully in the next few weeks, we'll have this done."
Mr. Bugbee said the project's cost, including the stairs and window replacement, started at $144,200, and with change orders, will total about $150,000. Since that was more expensive than anticipated, replacing roof flashing, and repairing and repainting the steeple were put on hold. Last week Mr. Bugbee applied for Community Preservation funds for that project.