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Harpswell awards contract to design EMS garage

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Harpswell awards contract to design EMS garage

HARPSWELL — The town is a step closer to building a two-bay garage that will house its emergency "interceptor" vehicle.

The Board of Selectmen unanimously voted Dec. 13 for a $11,400 design contract with Normand Associates Architects.

Town Administrator Krista Eiane said the design costs will come out of a $74,000 allocation approved at the 2011 Town Meeting.

But because ideas about the garage's purpose have changed since that Town Meeting, Eiane said the construction costs could exceed the amount originally allocated for the project.

And it might not be appropriate to just call it a garage in the end.

"Last year we put $74,000 in front of the Town Meeting and we said we wanted to undertake this process to design and construct," Eiane said, "and we heard a lot of feedback that 'if you're going to construct something, then take into consideration that you'll probably need some living quarters, you need some plumbing because if you expand this paramedic service, you may have people needing to stay overnight.'"

Construction costs could be in the range of $122,000-$130,000 with the new considerations, Eiane said, which will make the building or site expandable in case the town ever wants to "centralize more of its emergency related services."

A provision in the contract says if costs exceed $122,600, then the architecture firm could bill the town at 7.8 percent for any additional construction costs.

Selectman Jim Henderson questioned that stipulation.

"Not to be impolite ... but isn't this a sort of perverse incentive for the architectural firm to suggest and promote a more elegant structure than otherwise?" Henderson asked Steve Normand, the project's principal architect.

"You wouldn't have been the first person who said that," Normand replied. "As I said in the interview, I'm a (Harpswell) resident. I know where the money comes from. It's a fairly simple project."

Henderson also asked if the town now should start considering if the project will cost more than $122,600. Norman replied "we don't know."

He said the permitting could be costly, but it's hard to know what those figures will look like until they get to that process.

"That's the open-ended question – is that permitting?" Normand said. "If we get into some storm water management things, that's what hurts."

According to the contract, Normand Associates will finish the schematic design, design development, permitting analysis, construction documents and bidding work by Feb. 15, 2013.

Eiane said the town will have an estimate for construction costs around that time and depending on if it exceeds the remaining funds available after the design fees are paid, the town may have to vote on another allocation at the 2013 Town Meeting.

Eiane said the garage was required in the agreement to have Mid Coast Hospital provide paramedic services, which went into effect earlier this year. The vehicle and its components – not a fully equipped ambulance, but an SUV intended to provide a rapid first response – have to be heated during the winter months.

For now, the interceptor vehicle is stored in a facility owned by Mid Coast Hospital, Eiane said.

To quell concerns over the garage project growing too expensive, Eiane reminded the Board of Selectmen why the town chose Normand Associates over other architecture firms.

"I think one of the reasons Steve (Normand) stood out during the interview was he reminded us that it's a relatively simply project," Eiane said. "... We felt like he had a sense of what we needed and would give it some design style with his professional expertise."

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.