Cherry Hill Lane to be rebid

With budget of $1.4 million
Thu, 02/14/2019 - 7:30pm
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The Block Island Housing Board has revised the bidding process for its Cherry Hill Lane subdivision project.

The board said at its most recent meeting that the budget for the project will be $1.4 million and the new RFP will consist of two parts: one for site work and the other for construction.

After some rethinking of the project, the board voted unanimously (4-0) at its meeting on Feb. 20 to issue the RFP for constructing five single-family dwellings on its 4.5-acre property, which is located off Cooneymus Road. The motion was made by Millie McGinnes and seconded by Rosemary Tobin. Members Kay McManus and John Spier were absent.

The lower of two bidders during an initial round of bids in the fall came back $800,000 over budget. Connecticut Valley Homes, based in East Lyme, Conn., bid $2,623,970 for modular construction, while East Greenwich-based Zarrella Development Corp., bid $3,414,350 using the stick-built construction method. The project calls for construction of two two-bedroom dwellings and three three-bedroom homes.

“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this,” said Chair Cindy Pappas. “My opinion is that we should create two different RFPs. One for the groundwork and site work, and put that out to bid separately. And then the second RFP would” be for stick-built or modular construction.

Pappas said the board should “put a monetary limit on its budget” this time around, and state in the RFP that contractors should bid on construction from the foundation up for the five dwellings, with a “budget that may not exceed X. That gives them some hard parameters.”

“The question is: what’s the number?” asked Pappas, before noting that the three large homes should cost $295,000 each, while the two smaller dwellings would cost $240,000 apiece, totaling $1,365,000. Pappas then rounded the budget up to $1.4 million.

McGinnes said she wondered if noting the budget amount for the project in the RFP would limit the number of bidders. “That’s what I would be afraid of,” said board member Michael Kiley.

Pappas said during the initial round of bids, when no budget amount was noted, the “lowest bidder was $800,000 over budget.”

“I think it’s better to have a budget,” said Tobin. “Without one, the bidders will think the sky is the limit.”

Pappas noted that, “It will surely tell us that we are in La La Land” if the bids come back over budget. “Then we’d have to go back to the drawing board again.”

McGinnes asked Town Manager Ed Roberge, who was in attendance, if he had an opinion on the issue.

Roberge said, “I think the thing that sometimes drives cost are specifications that are unknown to contractors, and what the budget estimate is. They may be guessing at it. Nine times out of ten when we set up a bid the contractors ask what the budget is for the project, so they kind of know where they are.”

Pappas said the bidders “would have to give the board a bid package with their specs, and then we would have to do our homework on the quality of the specs that they presented to us to see if somebody presented something that is really shoddy workmanship that we’re not interested in.”

“I spoke to about ten modular manufacturers, and I’ve had continuing conversations with three of them,” said Pappas, who noted that modular construction “might be a more cost-efficient way to go” with the project.

“I think we’re going to be within the ballpark with this,” said Tobin. “I think our problem is that we sent out (the first RFP) with our specifications — and that costs more money.” She noted that the bidders “came in thinking, ‘Why not?’ and we were like, ‘No way.’”

Her comment elicited laughter from the board, but the discussion remained on task, with Tobin noting that if the RFP doesn’t yield its intended results the board might have to “get creative.”

“It feels better to have a budget” this time around, said Kiley.

“I think it’s really doable,” said Pappas, who noted, “If this all goes south, and doesn’t work,” maybe one or two of the smaller dwellings could be built using “the Block Island style Habitat for Humanity model” and a volunteer crew. She said the board could build the shell and hire a contractor to construct the interior.

“That happened at the Westside 20,” said Tobin. “But let’s see how this round of bidding goes.”

The Housing Board will hold a lottery to select prospective homeowners from a pool of affordable housing qualified applicants who can purchase the homes after they are constructed.

In other news, Pappas announced that the name of the Ocean View Property Homeowner’s Association is Baker’s Hill. The Ocean View Foundation, a non-profit organization, split a minor subdivision located off of Cooneymus Road into two separate lots, converting two rental dwellings into affordable housing units. The OVF transferred the properties to the Housing Board at no cost, with the OVF receiving the net proceeds from the sale of the homes.