W.T. Rich gets top rank for Tisbury School project

Tisbury officials have ranked W.T. Rich as top candidate for construction manager at risk for the Tisbury School project and will enter contact negotiations with the company. — Rich Saltzberg

At a joint meeting Monday evening, three Tisbury committees endorsed W.T. Rich Co. of Newton as the top-ranked choice for the $55 million Tisbury School project’s construction manager at risk role. At the same meeting, the select board voted unanimously to begin contract negotiations with W.T. Rich. 

Christina Opper, co-director of the management team hired to help guide the project, made note that the construction manager at risk process isn’t about narrowing prospects down to one choice, but about creating a preferred hierarchy of qualified applicants. 

“The process of selecting a CM isn’t to select one firm, it’s to rank them. And then, once accepted, you begin contract negotiations with the first-ranked firm. Should contract negotiations fail with the first-ranked firm, you would then go to the second-ranked firm and begin contract negotiations.” 

Commodore Builders came in as the second ranked choice, and J & J Contractors together with O & G Industries in a joint venture was the third ranked choice, according to construction manager selection committee chair John Custer, who is Principal of the Tisbury School. 

As The Times previously reported, a construction manager at risk is a type of managerial construction agent who assumes construction responsibility on behalf of the owner, and allows a contractor to be interviewed and selected for a set contract price. The other approach, which Tisbury opted not to take, is a design bid build project, which requires taking the lowest bidder.

Construction manager selection committee member Jen Cutrer said a major positive for W.T. Rich was they had a comprehensive plan to address needs and concerns — to “make sure things are going well” — for three years after the project is finished.

“That was a huge seller, wouldn’t you agree, John?” Cutrer asked.

“Absolutely agree,” Custer said. He added, “They have a very impressive track record of school projects.”

“I have to say I think we were all overwhelmed with their presentation — very detailed, very professional, but it was also heartfelt,” construction manager selection committee member Andrew Flake said. 

Tisbury School Building Committee chair Harold Chapdelaine said he was impressed by a number of things he saw from the W.T. Rich team, including being able to answer hard questions from his fellow committee members “immediately,” and also their understanding of the challenges posed by Vineyard logistics. Proof of that, he said, was that they had already reached out to Ralph Packer’s Tisbury Towing and Transportation to ask about barging materials. 

“I would say that [W.T.] Rich’s presentation was not only thorough, they showed an acute understanding of the Tisbury School building,” Chapdelaine said. “They have completely done their homework on the building itself.”

Further details about the school building project weren’t discussed at the joint meeting. 

Tisbury School Committee chair Amy Houghton described the completion of the ranking and negotiation votes as “exciting,” and told her colleagues, “Onward.”


  1. I was an architect in Boston for 30 years and am familiar with WT Rich- they have a strong track record working with municipalities (i.e. school projects) and many of the top design and engineering firms in the area. I also have completed several projects with Commodore and know Joe Albanese well- they are also a great choice, however I don’t think their educational portfolio is as deep as Rich’s. J & J does not impress me at all.

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