Four firms seek school project contract

WESTFIELD – Four companies submitted bids to serve as the general contractor for the city’s $36 million, model elementary school construction project.
City officials and its consultants on the Massachusetts School Building Authority approved project, Margo Jones, of Margo Jones Architects Inc., and Project Manager Paul Kneedler, of Skanska USA Building Inc., are currently reviewing the bids which range from a low of $25,031,000 to a high of $26,300,000. The firms competing for the contract include three local general contractors.
The low bid was submitted by Fontaine Brothers of Springfield, while the high bid was received from PDS Engineers & Construction, Inc. of Bloomfield, Conn. Two Northampton general contractors, in partnership with other firms, are also seeking the school building construction contract.
DA Sullivan & Sons submitted a bid of $25,335,000 in partnership with The Pike Company of Rochester, N.Y., while Aquadro & Cerruti Inc. of Northampton submitted a bid of $26,290,000 in partnership with the Morganti Group Inc., a Connecticut based general contractor.
Mayor Daniel M. Knapik said the project “is on target for a September groundbreaking.
“It’s an exciting time in Westfield,” Knapik said. “It’s not every day that the city starts a new school project.”
Knapik said that the subcontractor bids have recently been vetted and will be awarded shortly. Knapik said that he anticipates the general contractor for the project will be selected and a contract awarded by the School Committee this month
“Right now, over the next week or so, Paul Kneedler and (City Purchasing Director) Tammy Tefft will review the submissions to ensure that they are in compliance with the bid requirements,” Knapik said. “Then the contract will be awarded to the apparent low bidder.
“At some point in time, shortly after that award, there will have to be a contract signed, so it will go to the School Building Committee for a recommendation and then to the School Committee for ratification. We may have to call a special meeting of the School Committee,” Knapik said.
There are currently two suits in Superior Court attempting to derail the project. Both bids were filed by residents of Cross Street who opposed construction of the 96,000-square-foot, 600-student building.
One suit charges that the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals acted improperly in approving a dimensional special permit for side-yard setback reliefs originally requested by the city. However that case may be moot because the city subsequently purchased small tracts of land to satisfy the setback requirement without the ZBA permit.
The second suit charges that the school project is being constructed on Cross Street playground land that is under open space protection and that the city is in violation of state law. The city received a federal grant 40 years ago, funding which was used to improve nine parks, including a portion of the Cross Street facility. Cross Street was one of nine park facilities upgraded through a federal Department of the Interior conservation grant. Approximately 2.7 acres of the nine-acre playground was improved through the federal grant, but records do not detail which area of the Cross Street facility was upgraded through the federal grant.
The city contends that the area of the playground being incorporated into the project was not part of that grant-funded improvement effort and is exempt from the state and federal open-space restriction.
Knapik said the pending law suits will not negatively affect the project timeline until the city receives a court order.
“We’re going to just keep going until a judge tells us to stop,” he said.

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