Bridgton board awards less funds for Town Hall repairs

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Bridgton Town Hall supporters turned out in force Tuesday to support the Bridgton Board of Selectmen’s decision to award the bid for basic repairs to the building.

The board voted 4-1 (Ken Murphy opposed) to authorize spending up to $265,000 on the contract, which came in at $395,454. The vote came one week prior to next Tuesday’s referendum Question 2, asking that no money be spent on the Town Hall until all repair costs are known and approved by voters.

The board, which acted on the basis of last year’s Town Meeting vote authorizing $400,000 in spending, decided to leave out of the bid the $200,000 loan as part of that package. Selectmen said the town needs to go to the bank with firm plans in hand in order to get the lending approved. The loan would be paid back by drawing $50,000 a year in interest generated by the town’s Moose Pond Trust Fund, which now totals around $1.7 million.

Murphy said he voted against the motion because he believed any contract award should be delayed until the results of next week’s referendum are known. It is not known whether the lone bidder, Doten’s Construction, Inc., of Freeport, will want to take on a shaved-down version of the original bid specs at a lesser price, but selectmen hope town staff are able to negotiate a reduced project with the contractor, similar to when the Depot Street project came in at a cost nearly twice the amount that voters had approved.

Selectman Paul Hoyt asked how the bid award would be affected if voters approve Question 2 to wait on the repairs. Town Manager Bob Peabody said selectmen “have every right to spend the money” approved by 2014 voters, and added that the vote they were now taking to award the bid made the contract binding. Peabody said the board’s stance is backed by Town Attorney Dick Spencer, who said citizen’s petitions can only suspend a vote by the State Legislature and not a vote by a municipal governing body.

Several backers of the Question 2 petition strongly disagree with that assertion, however, citing Bridgton’s lack of a Town Charter and a reading of the State Constitution. Question 2 supporters have taken a dim view of the board’s decision to meet a week before the vote to award the bid, saying that by so doing the board is trying to thwart the citizen petition process. They also aren’t happy that the board decided to attach their own “no” recommendation to Question 2, when traditionally selectmen have left citizen petition questions entirely up to voters to decide.

Doten’s bid states his company is available to start work immediately on the Town Hall repairs, consisting of basic stabilization work, blown-in wall insulation, replacing a broken floor beam, sheathing over roof opening for chimney replacement, replacing existing siding and replacing doors.

The work does not include a new furnace that is needed, nor does it address a hole in the roof. which was recently discovered, which is causing moisture to build up in the interior walls on the Bridgton side of the building. With the reduction in the board’s bid award funding, the work also does not address grading and drainage in the parking lot to divert water away from the building.

Later in the meeting, resident Glen “Bear” Zaidman strongly recommended that selectmen immediately establish a citizens’ building advisory committee that would include local contractors.

“That way you would get rid of a lot of the problems you have with these projects,” Zaidman said. Both Chairman Bernie King and Murphy said they strongly support the idea. Peabody said the board already has agreed with his recommendation to work on creating a Capital Improvement Plan after the elections, and a Capital Improvement Committee is part of that proposal. The CIP proposal will be on the board’s agenda for their next meeting.

Woods Pond bathhouse

In other action, selectmen approved using up to $68,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds to build a new bathhouse at Woods Pond Beach to replace the aging latrine there. The funds came available when they were no longer needed for a bathhouse at Highland Lake, which was built with help from local contractor Criterion Development for $36,000 using FEMA funds. Resident Chuck Renneker said Mark Lopez of Criterion has agreed to head up the Woods Pond bathhouse project as well.

There’s no easy way to provide a domestic waterline to the structure, so it was agreed that the bathhouse would need to be served by water from the pond, provided that a sign is posted on both sides saying, “Caution: Nonpotable water. Do not drink.”

Selectman Paul Hoyt went along with the rest of the board in favoring the new use for the CDBG funds, but initially proposed the money would be better spent on the immediate needs for the Town Hall that weren’t foreseen when the bid specs went out.

“I’m not saying we don’t need a bathhouse, we just need the funds to go to Town Hall more,” Hoyt said.

But Anne Krieg, Director of Planning, Economic and Community Development, said county and federal CDBG officials have already been told the money would be used for a bathhouse, and if Question 2 passes the county would not be able to give Bridgton the funding. Member Doug Taft added that, “It does not bode well for the board by changing horses in midstream.”

 

(why can do it a week before ref)

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