2016-07-14 / Front Page

Stackpole bidders threaten lawsuit

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

The center archway will be the only part of Stackpole Bridge that remains after the bridge is given a makeover, according to revised plans by CPM Constructors. The small archway collects debris and requires regular maintenance by the city to prevent damming. (Ben Meiklejohn photo) The center archway will be the only part of Stackpole Bridge that remains after the bridge is given a makeover, according to revised plans by CPM Constructors. The small archway collects debris and requires regular maintenance by the city to prevent damming. (Ben Meiklejohn photo) SACO – Two of the four companies that entered bids to work on Stackpole Bridge may sue the city over the way it handled its contract with CPM Constructors’, a Freeport company that was chosen last year to rehabilitate the historic bridge.

The bridge has been a topic of debate in recent weeks after Kirk Mohney, director of Maine Historic Preservation Commission, provided the city with his opinion that CPM Constructors’ final design would not meet the National Register of Historic Places criteria for evaluation.

In 2014, voters approved a $990,000 bond to fund reconstruction of the bridge, but in October of last year, the city council voted to allocate an additional $370,000 toward the project.

Ward 1 City Councilor David Precourt said supporters persuaded the council to budget the extra funds by arguing that the added allotment would help preserve the historic nature of the bridge.

CPM Constructors had submitted its proposal to the city to rehabilitate the bridge for $1.2 million by using a lightweight concrete slab supported by 16 micropiles.

At a July 11 city council workshop meeting, Ward 3 City Councilor William Doyle said, “Our plan was to put micropiles in, that was the plan we voted on. When did that change? … If the plan was being altered, why wasn’t it brought back to us?”

Public Works Director Patrick Fox said in April it became clear to engineers that the micropiles would not be feasible because they would not provide the structural integrity for a 75-year design life as required in the city’s request for proposals. Instead, the company will replace the dry-laid stone bridge with concrete, placing some of the existing stones in the facade.

Fox said at the meeting of Mohney’s opinion, “It can still be debated whether that restricts (eligibility for historic designation). We can still apply after the project is done. We’d still be able to make that application and a larger group of people would make that determination.”

“While one individual said it probably won’t (be eligible for listing in the national register), we’re still going to apply,” added City Administrator Kevin Sutherland.

In a letter to city councilors and Mayor Roland Michaud, dated July 10, Chesterfield Associates President Davies Allan wrote, “It has come to our attention that you intend to go forward with the demolition of 98 percent of the Stackpole Bridge, leaving in place only the current stone arch. Thus there is no intent to improve hydrology.

“Yet one of the reasons you rejected our proposal was that it ‘did not meet the specific RFP requirement to improve the hydrology of the bridge’ … Moreover, the original council funding approval was for rehabilitation, not replacement.

“We intend to bring an action against the city if a contract for demolition and replacement proceeds.”

Chesterfield Associates, a Westport Island company, was originally selected for the contract last year. When the terms of the contract couldn’t be negotiated between the company and the city, Fox returned to the council to get an alternative proposal selected.

“What happened at that talk to negotiate with us to put together the semantics of the contract and what was going to be done with the bridge, is Fox added liquidated damages to the contract that wasn’t in the RFP,” Allan said. “If you don’t finish the contract by a certain date, the city can assess damages of $500 a day. Every contractor that may be concerned about bad weather, etc. would incorporate into their costs to account for those liquidated damages.

“So I went to the council meeting and they wouldn’t let me speak.”

Another company, Maritime Construction & Engineering, LLC, has notified the city of a possible lawsuit. In a letter to Sutherland and Fox, dated July 11, Kevin Devine, senior lawyer for Kevin Devine PLLC, wrote, “This law firm has been retained … to investigate potential litigation against the city of Saco, Maine, arising from improper bid and contract award procedures followed by the city in connection with the Stackpole Bridge project.

“It is our understanding that the city has changed the bridge project from one of restoration to one of replacement but that CPM’s bid proposal was solely for restoration, whereas our client’s bid was for replacement at a far lower cost than is now proposed by CPM. One would believe that our client, having expended significant expense during the lawful bidding process, should have been awarded this project as a matter of law.”

Devine also filed a Maine Freedom of Access Act request for the contract between the city and CPM Constructors and the approved plans for the bridge.

Devine told the Courier, “Generally they’re supposed to reopen the bidding process once they realized there’s an impossibility to perform a proposal as accepted. This is a first for me. I frankly think they made a mistake and still have time to correct it.”

Maritime Construction spent $30,000 preparing its proposal for the city, Devine added.

Shawn Toohey, owner of Maritime Construction, questioned why the micropiles were no longer feasible, when engineers from Structures North Consulting Engineers, a Salem, Massachusetts, company, had been advocating that solution for four years.

“(CPM Constructors’) initial proposal specifically talks about injecting grount into the stonework to stabilize it before drilling, so they had obviously considered the challenges,” Toohey said. “What changed? All I’ve heard is that the engineer said they couldn’t. They sold their solution to the project based on these micropiles and now after getting the project, are all of a sudden discovering that they are not feasible?

“Their proposal was very detailed and they say they have hired a geotechnical engineer to vet their proposed scheme and that the geotech is in agreement with the plan. The contract should be voided at this point since the current proposal no longer resembles the proposal for which they were awarded the contract.”

Fox said the engineers who proposed the micropiles are the same engineers that later said they would not be feasible.

“They weren’t confident that it would stand for 75 years,” Fox said. “They proposed a concept but they don’t do all the engineering. It’s not unusual during a design or build stage, to have things change.”

Sutherland apologized to the council in a memo for not informing them of the changes sooner, and claimed that litigation and loss of goodwill could result from retracting the contract with CPM Constructors. However, the contract between the city and the company included a provision for the contract to be terminated:

“If, at the Final Design Phase, Owner concludes the existing stone structure cannot be reasonably preserved, the Owner may, at that time, terminate this Contract. Owner shall have 30 days to make a decision.”

Toohey said the process of awarding the contract was mismanaged from the very beginning.

“I have never seen one anywhere close to this poorly managed,” he said.

Toohey said city staff, the city attorney and independent engineers all recommended that the contract be awarded to Maritime Construction, but when the city council chose last year to award it to Chesterfield Associates, he was surprised, because that company was lowest on the list of recommendations.

“In my opinion, (the city) had the RFP and it was pretty clear what they were looking for – either rehabilitate or reconstruct,” Toohey said. “Personally, I didn’t think rehabilitating was feasible.”

Toohey said his company submitted six different proposals, including one to glue the stones onto the new bridge to give it the appearance of the old bridge.

“Friends of Stackpole Bridge basically scoffed at that. ‘That does absolutely nothing for us, we wouldn’t consider that.’ It was almost like we had insulted them,” he said. “We knew that Friends of Stackpole were looking to rehabilitate. We were trying to give them something that they would like. One option was to reuse the stones, or if wanted, a slipliner finish to make the concrete look like stone.”

Toohey said it appears that the city never even intended to consider replacement of the bridge and shouldn’t have included the option in the RFP.

“My feeling at that point, when they decided they were going to go looking for extra money (for rehabilitation), was that we’ve wasted our time,” he said. “The whole point of the extra ($370,000) was to spur rehabilitation. All they did was waste time and money going through all these (proposals).

“Proposal now is no longer a rehabilitation, no closer to a rehabilitation than what we proposed to put the stones on the bridge … What’s the point of putting out an RFP if it’s going to change after?”

Toohey said keeping only the arch of the bridge is not enough to qualify the project as a rehabilitation.

“Nobody understands why. There’s no historical significance to that other than it’s historically stupid to make an opening that small,” he said. “One of the requirements of the original RFP was that the bridge had to have a 75-year design life, had to have current road standards, and had to improve the hydrology of the structure – it had to improve because there is history of that place backing up and in certain conditions, it’s no longer a bridge, it’s a dam.

“The only difference between (CPM Constructors’) and (our proposal) is that they’re going to leave the arch in the middle and build around it.”

Fox said even though hydrology improvement was a criteria in the RFP, there was no indication by how much the hydrology, or ability of water to pass through the bridge, should be improved. Fox noted that the metal bracing currently in place under the archway would be removed and that the hydrology would still be improved with CPM Constructors’ plan.

“It’s still a rehabilitation because some of the structure is being left,” Fox said. “Some could argue that the archway that’s being left is still the defining feature. The bridge will be a replica. As soon as we went with rehabilitation, that committed us to leaving the arch. You really can’t improve the hydrology much if you’re leaving the arch in place. They’re removing the bracing that does collect debris, so the hydrology, the flow, will be better there. There won’t be as much debris.”

Fox has also stated in other city documents that it could cost the city $2,000 to $5,000 to remove debris from the bridge after major storm events.

In an April 8, 2015 letter to City Engineer Angela Blanchette, Senior Associate JoAnn Fryer of CLD Consulting Engineers wrote of Maritime Construction’s proposal, “We agree with the Technical Proposal that the proposed structure will improve hydraulics at the site and upstream. This will also provide an opening requiring very little debris maintenance from the City of Saco.”

Of the CPM Constructors proposal, Fryer wrote, “The existing span hydraulic opening (with or without bracing) is substandard per the Hydraulics Report prepared as part of previous studies on the project. The existing narrow width creates a pressure flow situation at high flood events. The proposal does not detail how or if hydraulic performance would be enhanced. The small span opening will collect more debris than a larger span replacement option.”

In the summary of her letter, Fryer wrote, “We would recommend Proposal #6 from Maritime Construction as it provides the best value for the City of Saco, including a reduction in risk to the City for long term maintenance of the bridge.”

Toohey said he normally would eat the costs associated with coming up with a proposal, “but this process has just been so fouled up to the point where I would be asking for my money back.”

“If they hadn’t screwed with it so much, people would be driving across that bridge today. Our completion date was May, 2016, and here they are still talking about the contract,” he added.

At the July 11 meeting, during public comment, Saco resident Margaret Mills, who lives near the bridge, said she was angry, sad and disappointed with how the process worked out.

“The council voted for a historic design of the bridge, and multiple engineers told us this was going to work,” she said. “Then one engineer said no, we can’t do it this way, so we’re not going to have the old bridge, we’re going to take most of the materials down and build a new bridge without most of the features of the bridge.

“Fear of litigation won out over the value of what we wanted and a sense of place. I feel bad about the work everyone went through.”

Precourt said at the meeting, “I just know this whole process didn’t go well, it didn’t go the way it should have gone. This whole process was done poorly.”

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