TREMONT — Selectmen have agreed, reluctantly, to accept the original bid offered by New Yankee Builders for the planned renovation and expansion of the Bass Harbor Memorial Library. The decision came despite the library board’s requests to approve a bid for $30,000 more with the same contractor.
Following a long and tense discussion Monday, selectmen awarded the bid to the Bangor-based New Yankee Builders. The vote was 4–0 with selectman Mike Mansolilli abstaining from the vote and recusing himself from the selectmen’s table for the discussion.
Originally, New Yankee submitted a bid for the project at $309,500; the lowest of all bids received. But when selectmen received the bids to review and approve the library board’s request for awarding the bid to a contractor, the bid was listed as $339,500.
“We could have just accepted it,” said Mike Hays, treasurer of the library’s board of trustees. “But we were concerned that, quite frankly, it was too low … We think he underestimated the level of remodeling.”
In this second round of request for bids, six contractors put their hat in the ring for the expansion project, including Mansolilli’s company, MDI Property Management and Maintenance. Three of the bids were rejected as being too high for the budget set out by the library board.
For the remaining three contractors, Hays explained the board of trustees evaluated the bids using a matrix system which scored each one based on certain criteria. In addition to price, these criteria included experience, references and the contractor’s fit with the board and their vision for the project.
“I can tell you that there’s nobody else on that list that’s going to score higher,” said Hays about New Yankee Builders. “This is what we want. This is who we want. We don’t understand why you won’t support us in this project.”
Earlier this year, when the library trustees originally put out a request for bids for the expansion project, the only bid received was from Mansolilli’s company. The cost of the single proposed contract continued to be too high even after the board and Mansolilli’s company negotiated several aspects to reduce costs.
“That bid was never within our budget envelope,” said Hays when selectman Howard ‘Howdy’ Goodwin questioned the trustees’ process. “What do we do, take it out to bid a third time? We’re already at least six months out of sequence because of the last issue.”
“I want to know what kind of precedent it sets to increase a bid by $30,000 before putting it back out to bid [again],” Mansolilli said from a seat in the audience.
“It was still the lowest bid,” said Mel Atherton, who has been hired as clerk of the works for the project. “This has been reworked and massaged to get us here … I request you award the entire amount requested for the job.”
When the discussion began, Goodwin asked to table the item because the select board had received the list of bids and the trustees’ recommendation just before the start of the meeting.
After discussion between members of both boards, Selectman McKenzie Jewett pointed out Goodwin’s motion to table the item. Jewett then made a motion to accept the bid from New Yankee Builders for $339,500.
“I feel it’s important that we support our board,” said Jewett, adding it didn’t seem fair to push them into a contract with someone they didn’t want. “It’s their money and they’ve raised it all.”
Selectman Jamie Thurlow said he would second Jewett’s motion if it were for the original amount of $309,500.
“So you would approve a project low knowing there will be change orders,” said Atherton. “What we’re trying to avoid is coming back to you all.”
In response to the back and forth, select board chairman Kevin Buck said, “I’m getting that the issue is the change in price after the specs.”
Atherton asked if the select board would approve the original bid amount with New Yankee Builders if the library board came back to them in future with the changes that equal $30,000.
“I would be very comfortable with that,” said Thurlow.
Although the library board of trustees raised nearly $450,000 for the library expansion project, the town owns the building and must approve all expenditures.
“There’s not a nickel of townpayer tax money going into this project,” said Hays. “For most of us on this board it’s been four years of work.”
Now that a contractor has been awarded the expansion project, the library will be moving into its temporary home at 737 Tremont Road.
On Dec. 20, the Bass Harbor Memorial Library will close its doors at 8 p.m. and not open again until the renovation and expansion project is complete.
Employees, trustees and members of the community will be working through the holidays and beginning of the year to move specific items into the Pacific Hall.
Library officials have not chosen a specific date but plan to re-open near the end of January at the new, temporary location.
Hours at the temporary location will be Tuesday – Thursday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Children’s story hour and several other programs will continue to take place in the new space.