Harpswell administrator: Unanticipated costs accompany Mitchell Field pier demolition

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HARPSWELL — Demolition of the Mitchell Field pier only began Monday morning, but unexpected costs are already adding up.

Town Administrator Kristi Eiane told the Board of Selectmen Jan. 18 that an additional culvert must be built at the site, and a construction fence must be taken down for modifications and re-erected.

Eiane said the town has worked “a little bit of contingency” into the construction plans, which should cover the funds to re-erect the fence and build the culvert. Town Treasurer Marguerite Kelly said the contingency amount totals just over $250,000.

The pier demolition project’s $3 million contract with Reed & Reed, which was originally almost $3.2 million, was reduced by $125,000 in late December.  

The demolition process, which is divided into phases for underwater work, onshore construction, and hauling away debris by barge, is projected to be finished by September. The contract allows for work to be done through May 2019.

Eiane said crews encountered the need for a second culvert when building a new access road. The road will make it easier for site work subcontractor Ray Labbe & Sons to remove debris.

The  construction plans called for installing a culvert, but workers did not anticipate the amount of water they would encounter in the area when installing the road. Eiane said a water main may have been hit, and the subcontractor is hoping to investigate the issue.

Installing a second culvert would cost just under $4,000; investigation of the water problem would cost $1,800.

The fence, which was built with a fabric layer primarily to protect the bandstand at the site from construction dust, was damaged by the wind.

Town Planner Mark Eyerman said in some places, the fabric was torn; in others, it had “acted like a sail” and blown over with the portion of the fence it was attached to. In other sections the fabric came loose. 

The cost to remove the fabric, put the fence back up without it, and re-attach a new fabric layer in the spring when the weather is less harsh comes to $3,000. 

Chairman Rick Daniel said he thought the fence should be re-erected for safety reasons, but the board should take some time to consider what to do about the fabric.

Selectman Kevin Johnson asked why the town is being asked to pay for re-attaching the fabric if it was affixed at the wrong time of year. 

“I guess that’s what the three of us are struggling with, is why are we paying for any of this?” Johnson said. “If I build a house that blows down, am I going to go to the homeowner and say your house blew down, want to pay to put it back up?”

Eiane said the Board of Selectmen would further discuss the order to install an additional culvert this week; re-erecting the fence is still under discussion with the town’s consulting engineer and the contractor.

In response to selectmen’s concerns, Eiane said unforeseen costs are often a part of large construction projects.

“I think like many projects, things happen in the field,” she said. “We’ve had things happen with our road construction projects. … In this case, maybe it was a bad decision to put the fabric up at this point for the fencing, but I believe that’s what it called for in the (specifications) and what we had agreed to.”

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or eclemente@theforecaster.net. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente

Demolition of the pier at Mitchell Field began Jan. 22. Town staff held a ceremonial “pierbreaking” Dec. 7, 2017.

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