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Saybrook Town Dock Finally to Get Upgrade

Deteriorating dock pilings, decking in poor shape-these are the working conditions faced by those commercial fisherman and lobstermen who have called the town's Ferry Road dock their home-base. But, with luck, these conditions could soon disappear.

The dock's repair has long been sought by members of the town's Harbor Management Commission.

The project wasn't delayed due to a lack of funding; the town about six years ago sought and received a $250,000 federal Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant to offset some of the dock repair and upgrade costs.

What did delay the project was the need to meet a list of conditions of the federal grant award that initially surprised members of the Harbor Commission, who had moved the project forward to bid once the grant was received-and then had to stop.

The town's selectmen stopped the process to review the grant's conditions and, in this review, found that the Harbor Commission had not met the pre-conditions to release the work for bidding. So the project had to stop and re-start, this time by following the rules.

To do this, the town first had to get the federal and state government to agree to extend by five years the timeframe within which the grant could be used.

Town Attorney Michael Cronin told the town's Harbor Management Commission early last year that the town had signed an agreement in fall 2009 to renew the STEAP grant award for another five years. At that time, the state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was in the process of reviewing the preliminary project documentation the town had submitted.

With the extension approved, the town then hired a professional engineer, as the grant's conditions required, to develop the detailed plans and specifications for the dock upgrade and repair.

Next, the completed project plans and specifications were sent to the DEP for final review and approval. After a back-and-forth exchange with DEP asking questions and the town engineer providing responses, the document package was finalized and received DEP approval late in 2010.

Under the STEAP grant's conditions, the town was now finally authorized to ask for bids. The request for bids was issued early this year.

Last week, town staff opened the eight bids submitted.

According to Selectmen's Assistant Roland Laine, the low bidder was Old Colony Construction of Westbrook, with a base bid for the dock rebuild of $299,000.

All bidders also were asked to submit prices for several options that would add costs to the project, for example through substitutions of higher-grade materials. The substitutions were selected as options that, if chosen, would improve the function, durability, or maintenance requirements of the dock facility.

Examples of project components bid as add-alternates include substitution of a higher-grade wood for the replacement pilings and substitution of a higher-quality decking material than is in the base bid's specifications.

When all of the add-alternate option prices were added to Old Colony Construction's base bid, the work's cost totaled $742,000.

The next step in the Ferry Road dock rebuild will be for the town engineer to review the bids with the Harbor Management Commission, the town engineer, and the first selectman to discuss next steps. Clearly, if the decision were to accept all add-alternates, the project's total price would be greater than the grant award.

In addition to the $250,000 STEAP grant funds, however, the town's Harbor Management Commission also can tap funds deposited in its own harbor facility repair and maintenance account. Funds accumulated in this account from years of harbor mooring and waiting list fees currently total $368,589, according to Town Treasurer Bob Fish.

Once the project scope is fixed, the selectmen and then the town meeting would approve an appropriation for the project's total costs. By law, the town meeting votes to appropriate the total cost of an approved project even when, as in this case, most of the project's cost could be offset by reserve account cash and federal STEAP grant funds.

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