BARRE TOWN — Local officials have rejected the two bids they received for roof repair for the salt building because they were much higher than the available budget, something officials think may become more common with a limited number of contractors, supply chain issues and lots of federal pandemic relief dollars floating around.
At its regular meeting Tuesday night, the Select Board was presented with two bids to replace the north end of the roof of the salt storage building at the public works yard. The south end was replaced several years ago after it was damaged in a wind storm.
In his notes to the board, Town Manager Carl Rogers said a bid request was sent to nine companies and was published in newspapers. Two companies responded.
Rogers said the town has $13,405 in the budget for the work. Vermont Construction Company, out of Colchester, submitted a bid of $52,000; and Titan Roofing, out of Springfield, Massachusetts, submitted a bid of $119,900.
Rogers suggested Tuesday the board reject the bids and put the project back out to bid. He said in his notes a local roofer, Chris Facini who owns ’Til Dark Roofing, is interested in the project and wasn’t able to submit a bid because he was on vacation. Rogers said Facini was the one who replaced the south part of the salt building roof.
Board member Jack Mitchell said these bids are a good example of what the town may be looking at in the near future for its construction projects. Mitchell asked whether the town would be able to complete its projects given the price increases seen for materials because of a supply shortage. The coronavirus pandemic has caused supply chain issues.
He asked, “What are we going to do if we can’t get a bid out? Are we looking at the project being dropped until things change? What are we kind of looking at down the road?”
Rogers said that depends on the project. He said in this case the town knows another bidder is interested so the town can put the project right back out to bid with the hope that the work can be done this construction season.
“Other times, depending on what the work is, yeah, maybe the board would decide, ‘Just forget it. We’ll come back and get that later.’ Other projects, you may not have that option. You might have to get the work done,” he said, adding if the roof were leaking and in need of immediate repair, the town may have been forced to accept a bid.
Rogers said that’s not the case with the roof at the salt building, though it is more than 20 years old and needs to be replaced.
Mitchell said the low bid of $52,000 is either “way out of whack,” or the town’s budget is too low.
Assistant Town Manager Elaine Wang said the budgeted number was based on what the other side of the roof cost to replace.
Board member Justin Bolduc said under normal circumstances, that would be a logical approach. But the building’s roof is made out of metal and Bolduc said the cost of metal has gone up.
“Steel is as expensive as aluminum,” he said. “Which, you know, has almost never been the case.”
Bolduc said he’s hearing from contractors that they are getting more bids than they can process. He said the town will run into issues where some contractors won’t submit a bid because they don’t have time and they already have work to do. Wang noted the project had initially been put out to bid earlier in the fiscal year and the town didn’t get any bids.
Bolduc said with towns receiving American Rescue Plan Act dollars, there is more work volume than normal.
He suggested instead of placing a hard start and end date for a project, the town might have to be more flexible. He said the town could give contractors a fixed end date and let them find time to start the work.
The board voted unanimously to reject the bids.