By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — A Newburyport-based company was awarded the general contractor job for the elementary schools’ expansion project during the School Building Committee’s July 15 meeting.
SBC Chairman John Scenna said Castagna Construction submitted the lowest bid out of the six firms that submitted proposals for the expansion project, which entails enlarging both elementary schools. He said Castagna Construction’s bid, which includes four alternates, totals $12,711,000.
“Castagna is very confident with their bid number,” said Scenna.
In addition to the general contractor bid, Scenna said the expansion project’s contingency budget equals $1,271,100.
Scenna also noted that the project includes $1,065,000 for a variety of projects that will be overseen by the DPW. The projects that fall under the DPW’s purview include septic system renovations, sidewalk/roadway improvements, site work, soil testing at Summer Street and water infrastructure upgrades. Funds will also be allocated in order to construct a new field at Huckleberry Hill because the elementary school’s already depilated field is going to be destroyed even more during construction.
In response to a question from SBC member Jack Dahlstedt, DPW Director John Tomasz said contractors have been hired in order to undertake the additional projects that the DPW will be overseeing. Scenna said hiring those contractors “cut the general contractor’s overhead between 22 and 24 percent.”
Scenna said the project’s anticipated “soft costs” total $2,671,000, which brings the project’s overall price tag to $17,718,100. He recalled that the town appropriated $18,750,000 for the expansion project. He said there is $1,031,900 for “projected unencumbered funds.”
The SBC chairman noted that Castagna’s bid includes four alternate bids. Scenna said the first alternate bid will enlarge Summer Street’s all-purpose room, totaling $86,000.
“It is essentially taking out the stage and making the room bigger for lunch,” said Scenna. “It can also be used as a second gym for preschool and kindergarten students. In regular times, this will allow the school to have two grades in the lunchroom at the same time. In COVID times, it will allow an entire grade to be in there and spread out like they need to. It gives the school a lot of flexibility.”
Scenna said alternate bid 2 involves installing storage cabinets and shelving in the two additions’ classrooms and hallways, equaling $130,000.
“Teachers will use those to store materials,” said Scenna.
Scenna said alternate bid 3 entails furnishing outdoor classrooms at both schools, totaling $75,000.
“Superintendent Kristen Vogel and the teachers were pushing this because COVID brought outdoor learning back,” said Scenna. “This creates outdoor classrooms at Huckleberry Hill School and Summer Street School.”
Scenna said alternate 4 will allow new playground equipment to be built at Huckleberry Hill School as well as at Summer Street, equaling $443,000. He said both playgrounds will include new rubber surfacing underneath the structures as well as new mulch.
“Summer Street’s playground was always in the project, but Huckleberry Hill’s came about after discussions we had,” said Scenna.
Town Administrator Rob Dolan recalled that he and Scenna worked with Tappé Architects Managing Partner Charlie Hay when they respectively served as mayor and DPW director in Melrose. He said the architect is confident about Castagna Construction’s bid.
“Tappé Architects is known for having some of the least amount of change orders in the construction business,” said Dolan. “Any football team is only as good as their offensive line. I think we have the best offensive line to protect us with DPW Director John Tomasz, our owner’s project manager Leftfield and Tappé.”
Scenna said Leftfield owner’s project manager James Riefstahl reviewed the bids before they were brought to the SBC. Scenna, Dolan, Tomasz, Riefstahl and Town Engineer Charlie Richter met with Castagna Construction representatives on July 12 in order to discuss the general contractor bid and the construction project.
“It is always good to have a conversation with the contractor upfront in order to make sure they didn’t make any mistakes,” said Scenna.
Castagna Construction has worked on several school projects, including Amesbury High School, the Bromfield Elementary School in Harvard, the Carr Elementary School in Newton, Littleton Middle School and Westford Vocational School. The firm also built the Natick Fire Station, the Newburyport Harbormaster building, the Newburyport Senior Center, the Salisbury Comfort Station/Welcome Center, the Salisbury Police Station, the Salisbury Public Library, the Rowley Police/Fire Station and the Westford Fire Station.
“Castagna has been working in Northern Massachusetts for quite some time,” said Riefstahl. “They are working up in Salisbury right now as well as down in Saugus. One of the questions we asked them is what is their capacity at the moment, and this project meshes really well with their schedule and workload. I didn’t hear anything negative when I checked their references.”
“We don’t see any issues with awarding this bid,” said Scenna.
After the discussion, the SBC voted to award the general contractor bid to Castagna Construction.
Summer Street project begins
Scenna noted that the Summer Street component of the expansion project is underway. He said the DPW is currently constructing new parking spaces and the new bus loop before school starts on Wednesday, Sept. 1.
The SBC chairman also recalled that the Planning Board voted to accept the revised stormwater management system plans for both schools during a recent meeting.
“That plan was fully endorsed by all of the neighbors because Town Engineer Charlie Richter and DPW Director John Tomasz went door-to-door to discuss the plans,” said Scenna.
Scenna said the town hired the engineering firm Weston & Sampson in order to address some environmental issues that Tappé Architects discovered at both schools.
“Both sites now have a 100 percent clean bill of health in the areas where there is going to be excavation,” said Scenna. “We decided to do that outside of the contract in advance of the project so there weren’t any surprises.”
Scenna also noted that Dolan and Lynnfield Center Water District Board of Water Commissioners Chairman Joe Maney developed an agreement where the LCWD will be managing all of the water work at both schools. Scenna works as the LCWD’s superintendent.
“The material will be purchased by the project, but all of the labor will be provided by the LCWD,” said Scenna. “That gave us a lot of flexibility in terms of setting up the sites.”
Scenna said a fire hydrant was temporarily removed at Summer Street in order to allow an access road to be put in that will be used during construction.
“As soon as the site gets rearranged a little bit, we will put the hydrant back,” said Scenna.
Scenna said the Huckleberry Hill expansion project will begin in August.
Tomasz also noted that Health Director Kristin Esposito McRae supported the plans for the expanded septic fields at both schools.
“That is essentially a done deal,” said Tomasz. “We are looking to have both of those completed before school starts.”