‘Hiccup’ over excavation stalls bid acceptance for Conway public safety building addition

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 04-04-2024 1:57 PM

CONWAY — While the acceptance of any bids for the public safety building addition is temporarily delayed as the town works out some “minor hiccups,” officials are hopeful to reach a resolution before a late April deadline.

The town has received several bids for the project, but the Public Buildings Committee this week recommended the Selectboard reject any bids because the scope of work has changed. Highway Superintendent Ron Sweet was originally going to do the excavation work the project requires, but he is no longer able to commit to that, according to committee member Ken Ouimette.

“The primary reason turned out to be the person who we all expected to be the excavator, the highway superintend, felt he could no longer commit to doing that due to some unresolved issues with the Selectboard,” Ouimette said. “That would completely change the scope of the project for the bidders. … I recommend the Selectboard resolve the issue.”

While he couldn’t comment on specifics because it is a personnel matter, Selectboard Chair Philip Kantor said Tuesday that this is a “minor hiccup” in the process and he fully expects things will be smoothed over in the coming weeks. Bids must be accepted or rejected within 45 days of March 20. Kantor emphasized everyone is working toward the same goals.

In the meantime, he said the public safety building addition is poised to be a huge win for taxpayers, as “it’s on target to be completed without any money from residents.”

The project seeks to build an extensive addition to the public safety complex built in the 1940s at 15 Ashfield Road by creating individual offices for the Fire, Police and Ambulance departments, along with space for a shower, a laundry room and a conference room.

Its conditions are so tight that the building was one of the focuses of a legislative tour in the summer of 2022 that brought then-State Auditor Suzanne Bump and numerous other legislators to Conway to explore the state of public safety complexes in western Massachusetts. The tour followed a 2021 report compiled by Bump that underscored the “critical need” for infrastructure in this region.

The building currently holds the Fire and Ambulance departments’ equipment in quarters so tight that fire engines are parked bumper to bumper. The Police Department has a separate office in the Town Offices.

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Funding was approved at the 2023 Annual Town Meeting, where residents appropriated $311,000 of leftover money from the Highway Department’s building project and $84,695 from the sale of public lands to supplement roughly $390,000 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

If things are worked out, the Public Buildings Committee can reconvene and vote to recommend one of the bids.

“I want to thank you all for your work on this project. I really appreciate it. It’s a lot of work and it’s a labor of love,” said Selectboard member Erica Goleman. “I have faith that we’re going to have a decent public safety building.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com.