Many of the comments from the small audience were contentious and at times heated, but in the end the Charlotte Selectboard voted unanimously Monday to issue a request for bids for a design/build proposal for a new addition to the Charlotte Library.
Some members of the audience questioned the feasibility and efficiency of the design/build process.
The unanimous vote did not include chair Matthew Krasnow, who was absent. Vice chair Frank Tenney oversaw the meeting.
The request for bids had been modified from the version submitted at the previous week’s regularly scheduled selectboard meeting, when its approval was delayed because of objections from the Charlotte Energy Committee, whose members wanted more stringent energy efficiency incorporated into the bid.
Part of the modification was a requirement that the contractor will consult with Efficiency Vermont “with the goal of achieving the ‘Efficiency Vermont: High Performance’ designation.”
The meeting started with selectboard member Fritz Tegatz, saying that he would volunteer as construction manager for the library addition.
When the selectboard opened the discussion to the public, Peter Trono said, “I’m a little bit confused about how you can put out a proposal for bids without having all your zoning and permits in place.”
He raised questions about a site plan, parking, stormwater, setbacks, buffer from wetland, pedestrian traffic, lighting and wastewater.
“I don’t understand why we’re here talking about bid proposals when you don’t have the information to supply to bidders,” Trono said.
Tegatz replied that design/build bid process includes bidders creating the design and proposals for how they would handle different aspects and challenges of the project. He used carpeting as an example and said each bid would include what kind of carpet the bidders proposed and its cost. Tegatz said this would give the town the opportunity to compare costs for different parts of the construction.
Trono objected that by not being specific, the selectboard was “opening it up to a discussion” that would be more time consuming. He suggested that the drawings be given to a lumber company like Rice Lumber and have them put together a list of materials needed for the construction. He said that should be submitted as the request for bids so that all bidders bid on the same thing.
“You want for someone to come up with a complete set of construction plans of exactly what they want to put in, which is not a design/build contract,” Tegatz said.
If the town didn’t do the design/build process, they would have to seek bids from architects and then seek bids for the construction, which he asserted would take until next year to build the library addition.
Audience member Robert Mack disagreed, saying the design/bid process would take longer and asked how long did Tegatz thought the design/build request for bids would take.
Tegatz said that it would take “probably five to 10 days.”
Mack was openly skeptical of Tegatz’s estimate.
“No way. No. No. No,” he said. “It just doesn’t happen that fast.”
Selectboard member Louise McCarren said, “What gives me comfort is the clause in here that says the town has absolute flexibility to accept or reject any or all parts.”
She pointed out that the request for bids includes component pricing, which was intended to provide an ability for comparisons.
When Trono said he’d never seen bids done this way, Tegatz replied, “I’ll stipulate that you’ve never seen it done this way.”
“Maybe that’s the way they did it in California,” said Trono. “I’ve done a few buildings myself in Vermont. That’s not the way we’re doing it.”
After the meeting, Tegatz said he moved to Vermont from California eight years ago.
McCarren said that the process will give them a whole lot more information and she reiterated that they have “complete discretion” to take any of the bids “in part or in whole.”
“All of you make very good points, but I do think this is a path forward,” said McCarren. She “called the question,” which ended the debate and the selectboard voted to take the design/build request for bids path forward.