Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Editorial: A slight delay may pay off

Patience may be the most valuable commodity offered for Market Square.

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Several items make contractors nervous, and the renovation of Market Square covers the list: a very public space drawing all eyes and opinions; underground work in which unknowns can spring unpleasant delays; a tight deadline with a $1,500-a-day penalty for failing to meet the 120-day schedule, and, one other thing, the clock starts running March 1.

Given that, it is not difficult to understand why just one contractor bid on the job or why the bid came in at nearly twice the $600,000 budget.

City Manager Chris Morrill said the city is attempting to "value engineer" the bid with S.C.Rossi & Co. to see if it can be scaled to what is affordable. A decision will come in the next few days. The better course would be to delay the project until fall and rebid the job when there is less pressure to get it done as quickly.

Two options that should not be considered: diverting money from another project to meet the $1.15 million bid or scrapping the square renovation. Market Square is too valuable and too important to leave unimproved while all around it is restored. But not at any cost.

Initially, constructing a plaza was pegged at $250,000. But beneath the square is a complicated, antiquated network of utilities. Replacement adds substantially to the cost and the construction schedule. Complicating the project further is the network of farmers, vendors, shopkeepers and restaurateurs who make their livelihood on the Market, requiring the contractor to shuffle work so as to not be terribly disruptive.

Come late fall, that task becomes less daunting. There will never be an ideal time to disrupt the square. But patience may attract competitive bids and serve as a relief valve for contractors and vendors alike.

Just as long as all remain committed, a few months' delay may lower costs and raise good will.

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