Tisbury aims to open emergency services facility by July

Although Tisbury's new emergency services facility appears to be ready for occupancy, there are still many details to resolve. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Tisbury town officials and the new emergency services facility (ESF) building committee are aiming for the town’s fire, ambulance/emergency medical services (EMS) and emergency management departments to move into the building by July.

Tentative plans are to demolish the old fire station on Beach Road in mid-July and create a temporary parking lot that would be available possibly at the beginning of August, according to the most recent update on the project provided by town administrator John Bugbee and ESF committee chairman Joe Tierney at the Tisbury selectmen’s meeting Tuesday night. The selectmen plan to hold a public hearing in June to discuss how the parking lot should be set up and operate.

Although the new ESF is essentially complete, the town’s delay in signing off on the project is due to remaining issues that must be resolved through negotiations with Seaver Construction, the project’s general contractor. In an update on the project to the selectmen at a meeting May 15, Mr. Bugbee and Mr. Tierney said those issues range from a disputed date of substantial completion to a cracked concrete flagpole base.

“I think the building, in terms of being ready and functional, will be there probably within weeks,” Mr. Bugbee told the Tisbury selectmen two weeks ago. “However, to move in there before the other issues are resolved would jeopardize the town’s position, where we’re trying to negotiate things like pavement and some other issues that we’re going back and forth on.”

At this week’s selectmen’s meeting, Mr. Bugbee said the final pieces are falling into place. One of them is the installation of nine air filtration units. The selectmen approved a contract for $13,600 to M.V. Electricians to complete the work.

“Once those are in and the asphalt issue resolved, I think we’re fairly close, if not there, in being able to move in,” Mr. Bugbee said.

A lot of moving parts

Seaver Construction was awarded a $5.52 million contract in February 2010 to build the approximately 18,500-square-foot ESF on West Spring Street across from Tisbury School. The town celebrated a groundbreaking ceremony for the ESF’s anticipated 13-month construction in April 2010. The project’s contract completion date was June 4, 2011.

“We’re all very anxious to move, but we don’t want to jeopardize the town’s position in any way by getting in there for convenience sake,” Fire Chief John Schilling said at the selectmen’s meeting. “Everywhere we go, everybody’s first question is when, and we really don’t know. It’s part legal, it’s part contractual, it’s part construction, and those are the balls we have in the air at this time.”

Mr. Bugbee said that the way the project contract was designed and set up by law, HKT Architects, the project’s designers, must make the call on whether the work has been done right, not the town.

Mr. Tierney told the selectmen that approximately $700,000 remains in the project’s overall budget, according to town accountant Suzanne Kennedy. He said he still expects the project to come in under budget.

Despite the new building’s uncertain opening date, voters at Tisbury’s April 10 town meeting approved spending $40,000 from free cash to fund the cost of the existing fire station’s demolition and related costs.

“The selectmen will be deciding what to do about that in the next several weeks,” Mr. Bugbee said in a follow-up phone conversation with The Times last week. “The plan is definitely to do a temporary parking lot there this summer, but there are a lot of moving parts to deal with that before that can be accomplished.”

The devil is in the details

In response to questions emailed from The Times, Mr. Tierney explained some of the remaining issues that account for the delay.

“We started with over 500 punch list items, and there are still a number of items to be addressed, some major, some minor,” he replied by email.

“With a project of this size the last five percent is the most difficult, and that can be frustrating,” Mr Tierney added. “Now it’s all about the details, and the committee is dedicated to providing the town with the quality building that they paid for.”

The project’s substantial completion date is one of the items that remain in dispute, Mr. Tierney said. In September 2011, Seaver Construction issued an updated work schedule with plans for “substantial completion” of the building by the beginning of November 2011 and completion 30 days later.

The actual date is significant, because it marks the end of a $1,000 a day penalty imposed on Seaver in mid-July 2011, for not finishing the project by the contract completion date.

The quality of the asphalt pavement around the building done by White Brothers-Lynch Corporation is also in dispute. In January, with the selectmen’s approval, the ESF building committee hired a pavement specialist at Fay Spofford and Thorndike (FST) to analyze the quality of the asphalt. According to FST’s report to the town, the wearing surface course did not meet “air void specifications,” which could reduce the life of the pavement by 10 percent, Mr. Tierney said.

White Brothers-Lynch Corporation has disputed that assessment.

“The contractor is supposed to provide a remediation plan, based on the pavement consultant’s recommendations,” Mr. Tierney said. “That plan would then be reviewed by our architects and engineers, for approval by the town.”

As Mr. Bugbee explained to the selectmen on May 15, “If we start driving on the pavement and it hasn’t been resolved, then the town’s position on whether it’s acceptable or not is going to be compromised.”

“Any repairs to the asphalt would require us to move out of the facility while that’s being done,” Chief Schilling added to Mr. Bugbee’s remarks. “It doesn’t make sense to move in, only to have to relocate for 48 to 72 hours if they were going to be doing some repair.”

This week, Mr. Tierney told the selectmen the ESF building committee received a letter from White Brothers-Lynch Corporation requesting that the pavement be retested. Mr. Tierney said he spoke with one of the project’s civil engineers and the paving consultant, who suggested the testing be redone using a different set of industry standards.

“We’re reluctant to do it, since it cost $4,200 the last time, but we have no other avenue,” Mr. Tierney said.

If the results are negative again, he added, the town could later charge the cost back to the contractor. The selectmen voted to approve the funds.

Over the past two years, the ESF’s construction hit several snags that set the schedule back. A botched job on the concrete slab poured for the building’s foundation in November 2010 caused one of the project’s most significant delays.

More on the floor

The floor issue still remains on the punch list, Chief Schilling told The Times in a phone conversation last week.

Poured by Demello Concrete Floor Company of Tiverton, R.I., a subcontractor hired directly by Seaver Construction, the slab did not meet HKT’s design specifications. It had a high spot towards the middle of the building, which would affect the floor’s drainage and possibly lead to slippery and hazardous workplace conditions.

After months of wrangling about repair options, Chief Schilling said that as a compromise Seaver, the town, and HKT agreed that the entire floor would be sealed with an epoxy coating with a non-slip additive to address areas where water might collect and to fill in low areas, including the work spaces off the apparatus bay.

“Unfortunately, in process of applying the fix, too much epoxy was applied in one area, which created a negative slope, so that in the apparatus bay, water runs away from the drain instead of towards it,” Chief Schilling said. “So now the repair has to be repaired.”

Another punch list item is the concrete flagpole base done by Infinity Masonry, a subcontractor also hired by Seaver, much to Chief Schilling’s annoyance. The flagpole at the old fire station on Beach Road has been repainted, the halyard, ropes, lines and hardware replaced, and new flags purchased. The concrete base, however, has four substantial cracks in it.

“Until such time as we get an agreement that the cement base wasn’t poured correctly and a resolution, we’re not going to put a pole in it because it will only cause further damage,” Chief Schilling said. “And then how are we going to negotiate that? That’s the type of stuff we’re dealing with.”

Hashing out all those final details takes time, Mr. Tierney noted. “We just ask the public’s, as well as fire and EMS personnel’s, patience, as we close out the project,” he said.