Westport school groundbreaking is October 8

Latest bidding goes better, excavation to start October 15




By Bruce Burdett

WESTPORT — The first bits of work on Westport’s new grade 5-12 school have begun and the town will celebrate the occasion with a groundbreaking ceremony at the Old Colony Road site and 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 8. All are welcome.

Recently, a fence was completed around the work location perimeter, most of it where the demolished middle school once stood, said Robert Gilchrist of Agostini Bacon Company, the job’s Construction Manager At Risk (hired to assure that the school is completed without additional cost surprises).

Work trailers have arrived, he told the School Building Committee last week, and Eversource will install a conduit carrying power and communication lines across and beneath Old County Road any day now. It should take a day and involve closing one lane at a time.

Target date to start actual construction is Tuesday, Oct. 15, Mr. Gilchrist said. That’s the day they intend to begin excavation for the footings — all foundation work should be complete by the end of December.

With that done, steel work will start and run through the winter. Steelworkers, Mr. Gilchrist said, “don’t care how cold it is” or whether it’s snowing. The project remains on pace to open in time for the start of school in September 2021.

Bidding goes better

There was also “some excellent news” to report regarding bids and costs, the committee was told, certainly better news than dominated agendas months ago when a first attempt at bidding came in $10 million over budget.

In bidding for the first phase of the project, three “major trades” — site work, concrete and structural steel — came in a combined $650,000 under budget, the committee learned.

  • Concrete work (footings, foundation) drew multiple bids for work that had been estimated to cost $3.2 million. Agostini proved to be the winning bidder with a bid at the $3.2 million amount that it had projected — other bids ranged from just above that number to $4.5 million.

  • Mr. Gilchrist said that Agostini, as construction manager, submitted its bid 24 hours before the work was put out to bid so that it would not have the advantage of seeing what competitors proposed.

  • Structural steel … “We started with seven bidders,” Mr. Gilchrist said, a couple of which backed out due to other jobs. The budget was $4.5 million and the low bid came in at $4.62 million. Wining bidder was Structure SBL, a Canadian firm.

  • Site work … The slight overage in steel work was more than offset by bids for site work. Budgeted at $8.6 million, the lowest bids came in just under $8 million. The winner was Catalano Construction, a Rhode Island company.

That good news was offset somewhat by word that $65,000 needs to be transferred from the contingency account to cover possible overages in another account.

Playing field lights

A local youth league has asked that it be given the former middle school’s playing field lights and poles that will otherwise be knocked down to make way for the new school.

The league (which was not identified) has said it can truck the lights away to a new location but does not have the funds to pay for them or for having them taken down.

One member said the committee should know first the cost of taking the lights down carefully rather than simply knocking them down. He said he wants to be sure that that expense isn’t greater than the actual value of the lights.

Mr. Catalano estimated that the lights and poles could still be worth around $30,000 and that the cost of taking them down carefully would be a fraction of that.

The new middle/high school’s total cost is set at $97 million, a figure that cannot change since roughly 40 percent of the cost is to be reimbursed by the Massachusetts School Building Authority.