Contractor PROCON ‘sorry’ for inconveniences

Published in the January 29, 2016 edition.


WAKEFIELD — At a meeting hosted last night by the Wakefield Co-operative Bank, representatives of Shelter Development and PROCON provided representatives of downtown businesses with a detailed overview of the ongoing and upcoming utility infrastructure work in the northeastern end of the downtown area.

Shelter Development is preparing to build a 130-unit Brightview Senior Living complex on property formerly owned by the Fraen Corp. between Main and Crescent streets behind the Co-operative Bank. PROCON is the building contractor overseeing Phoenix Communications, which is performing the utility upgrades.

The town has come under some fire recently from critics who claim that the town should have been more proactive in facilitating communication with downtown businesses regarding the work so that the businesses would have an opportunity to plan and make adjustments.

Currently, businesses on the east side of Main Street from Jeffrey’s Package Store to Sabatino’s receive electrical, cable and fire alarm service in the rear of their buildings. Those utilities run through the property owned by Shelter where the construction of the Brightview facility will occur. The town has no easements or rights to run the utilities through the private property.

According to Shelter’s local attorney Brian McGrail, rather than force the town to move those antiquated utilities, Shelter agreed to remove, upgrade and relocate the services underground in front of the businesses on Main Street.

Shelter/Brightview will not receive any power or communications benefit from the upgrades, according to McGrail. But in order to expedite their Brightview project, Shelter agreed to move and upgrade those utilities at its own expense. The utility work is expected to cost Shelter about $1 million and will include paying for private electricians to reconnect the businesses to the new infrastructure.

About 20 people attended last night’s meeting, including representatives of affected businesses as well as representatives of the Department of Public Works and the Wakefield Municipal Gas & Light Department. Building Inspector Jack Roberto was also on hand.

McGrail started the meeting by introducing PROCON’s Senior Project Manager Lynn Kramer and Project Superintendent James Ovady.

Kramer began by reviewing the work that has been done to date. She maintained that from the beginning of the utility project, PROCON has kept directly impacted businesses in the loop. Meetings like last night’s, she said, were an effort to include and inform other nearby businesses.

Ovady said that Phase 1 was the now completed work in the vicinity of The Savings Bank ATM kiosk. Phase 2, he said, was the conduit work that was just completed this week in the driveway next to the Co-operative Bank.

Phase 3 is expected to be completed next week and will involve placing conduit for electrical, cable and fire alarm wires under the sidewalk in front of the Co-operative Bank and Nonno’s Pizza, Ovady explained.

He said that Jersey barriers will be placed at the outer edges of the parking spaces in that area and temporary fencing will be erected as well. There will be an open pathway to the entrances of the businesses, he said. Work directly in front of business entrances will only take place during off hours.

Once the sidewalk is dug up, metal plates will be placed over the trench in front of business entrances to facilitate customer access. Ovady said that PROCON would post signs on the outside of the fences announcing “Businesses Open During Construction.” Police details will be provided to assist and ensure the safety of customer access to the businesses.

Phase 4 conduit work will occur in the alley way next to Nonno’s pizza and the sidewalk in front of the alley way and is expected to take about five days, from Monday, Feb. 8 until Friday, Feb. 12.

Phase 5 will take place the following week, from Monday, Feb. 15 through Friday, Feb. 19 and will involve placing conduit under the sidewalk in front of Wakefield Eye Associates, J’Adore and Sabatino’s. Ovady stressed that the Jersey barriers and fencing will be moved with each phase of the work to minimize disruption. The same policy of providing access to business entrances and police details will apply at every stage.

Once the underground conduit is installed, the sidewalks will be resurfaced with a temporary asphalt covering, Ovady said. When the weather is warm enough to pour concrete, he added, the asphalt will be replaced with a new concrete sidewalk.

Phase 6, Ovady said, will take about two weeks and will overlap with some of the earlier timetables, running from Monday, Feb. 8 through Friday, Feb. 19. Phase 6 involves bringing a new underground gas line from Crescent Street out to Main Street between the Unitarian-Universalist Church and Sabatino’s.

Ovady said that from Monday, Feb. 22 to Friday, March 2 the WMGLD will pull its primary wires through the underground conduit on Main Street. From Thursday, March 3 through Friday, March 11, the WMGLD will pull its secondary wires through the conduit under the sidewalk.

Ovady said electrical work within the businesses will run from Monday, Feb. 8 to Friday, March 4. He said that PROCON would work closely with businesses to minimize electrical shutdown times as the electrical service is switched from the old service to the upgraded systems.

Dawn Beebe, who owns ZuZu’s, just outside of the work area, said that her business had already been negatively impacted with police detail officers parking their private vehicles in front of her store. She maintained that people were avoiding the downtown during the work.

“Bottom line,” she said, “It affects business greatly.”

But Ovady pointed out that doing the work in the winter is much less disruptive than it would be if were done in the warmer weather when more people are out and about.

Joseph and Nancy Bertrand of Wakefield UnCommon Antiques urged signage and street markings to encourage people to use parking on the east side of Main Street between Crescent and Park streets to make up for some of the lost parking during the construction. Ovady and a representative of the DPW said that those steps were already in the works.

Kramer stressed PROCON’s willingness to work cooperatively with local businesses.

“Our intent is to work with you,” she said. “If we have caused any inconvenience, we are very sorry.”