O.B. skeptical of town hall completion date

Packish calls for exploration of a town hall building committee.

Oak Bluffs leaders are skeptical of a November completion date for the new town hall. — Brian Dowd

Atlantic Construction has set a November 9 completion date for construction of the new Oak Bluffs town hall, but town leaders say that’s wishful thinking.

At a lengthy meeting Tuesday night, Jorge Figueiredo, vice president of Atlantic Construction, told the town’s select board that the renovation and reconstruction project is in various stages of completion, but still set for a November finish.

But select board members weren’t sold. Board member Jason Balboni said he expected the project to be much further along. Select board member Gail Barmakian agreed.

“I see the November 9 date, is that realistic?” Balboni asked. Figueiredo said the project was on track and he didn’t foresee any conflicts on the horizon based on the latest project schedule.

“We’re watching it on a weekly basis,” he said.

Select board member Brian Packish said while he appreciated the construction team’s efforts he had no faith in a November 9 completion date. “I’ve been driving by on a nearly daily basis and it’s very concerning,” Packish said. “I hope that you prove me wrong, but we’re going to need some very frequent updates…to get to a 90 day completion from here, there’s going to need to be a lot more people on site, you guys are going to need to start staying past 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and a lot more work is going to need to occur.”

Additionally, Packish asked Barmakian and town administrator Deborah Potter to explore constraints of an ad hoc town hall building committee to help manage the project and get updates going forward. Packish thanked Atlantic Construction and said the board’s concerns were not with the quality of construction, but with the agreed upon timeline. “We’ve got a good team on this project,” Figueiredo said. “We’ll make sure it’s delivered on time and everyone can be proud of it.”

The $13.4 million construction project was approved by Oak Bluff voters at the 2020 annual town meeting and election after two failed attempts at getting voter approval. In 2017, town voters approved $9.8 million for a new town hall, but the following year, two separate bids for the project came in over budget, the last being as high as $11.1 million. A vote to approve an additional $1.3 million was shot down by voters at a special election in November 2018. 

In other business, the board voted 3-1 to accept land damage agreements with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation for the bike path project on Beach Road. The board has met with MassDOT several times to discuss the agreements, but a vote was delayed due to concerns from Barmakian about liability. Barmakian said there is a statement from the state to make good faith efforts should there be damage to the land due to construction. 

Barmakian said she voted no on the land damage agreements because she was disappointed with a related issue of damage to eelgrass following construction of the Lagoon Pond drawbridge.

“There was nothing definitive in terms of obligation to do anything about the eelgrass or acknowledgement of it, but [the state] has agreed to a meeting with a local authority,” Barmakian said.