Oak Bluffs will begin construction on seawall pending additional funds

Selectmen will look to community preservation accounts for an additional $230,000 needed for the project.

Grants will pay for a new seawall along the North Bluff. — File photo by Michael Cummo

Carlos Pena from CLE Engineering, designer for the North Bluff seawall project, told Oak Bluffs selectmen at their regular Tuesday meeting that MIG Corp. of Acton was the low bidder for the $5.6 million North Bluff seawall project — a steel sheet seawall and boardwalk from the harbor to the new fishing pier.

Four companies bid on the project. The base bids ranged from $5.2 million from MIG to $7.3 million from Middlesex Corp. The MIG bid of $5.2 million also included hazardous material removal. However, when engineering and management fees were added, along with a 5 percent contingency fund of $262,000, the total was $5.9 million, leaving the town with a $343,000 shortfall.

Town administrator Robert Whritenour told selectmen that after years of back and forth, FEMA had finally made a “first offer” of Hurricane Sandy relief funding to add to the project; however, it was only $113,000. This left the total town shortfall of roughly $230,000.

“The contingency is a very important item,” project manager Dave Lager said. “We do a lot of work for towns all over Massachusetts, and one of the items under public bid law is you have to have a contingency. As good as your planning may be, it’s very hard to be precise. We can’t sit here and tell you that the sheets will go into place without obstructions.” Mr. Lager added that the test borings made by Mr. Pena accounted for only 1 to 2 percent of the area that will be excavated.

“We may not need it,” Mr. Lager said. “I’m fairly confident that we won’t, but I can’t sit here and tell you that.”

Selectman Walter Vail, who has been active on the building committee for the new fire station, said that project will come in on or under budget, but noted that the budget included a $403,000 contingency fund, which is almost used up. “It is a good thing to have,” he said. Mr. Vail added that the new fire station is due to open in November,

“We need to take action as a town,” Mr. Whritenour said. “One option is cutting back on the project $200,000. I’m not comfortable with that.” Mr. Whritenour suggested that the shortfall be made up with CPC (Community Preservation Coalition) funds. “We’re intending to just hold the money, and if there’s a way to return it, we’d like to,” he said.

The Oak Bluffs CPC committee is holding a special meeting Monday. If the committee supports the request and puts it on the November town meeting warrant, Mr. Whritenour said, he was confident the long-awaited project could move forward without delay.

Mr. Lager said he expects material delivery to begin in November and construction to begin in December, with the entire project completed in 10 months, the bulk of the work being completed by Memorial Day.

Selectmen voted unanimously to accept the bid from MIG and to seek $230,000 in CPC funding for the shortfall.