Selectboard rejects bids on town garage

Bids Charlotte received for building a town garage were fewer and higher than expected, so the town decided to punt.

Members of the selectboard voted to reject the only two bids received and kick them back to the companies that submitted them.

At the meeting on Monday, Oct. 24, the board members voted 4-0 to reject both bids. By the time the votes were taken after a closed executive session at the end of the regular meeting, it was after 10 p.m. Board member Louise McCarren, who had been attending remotely earlier, had left and was absent for the vote.

Before the two bids were opened at a previous selectboard meeting on Oct. 10, chair Jim Faulkner expressed surprise that there were so few. He had expected a good many more bids because of the number of construction companies he and town administrator Dean Bloch had talked to about the construction project.

After the bids were opened, the selectboard was even more surprised at how high they were. The two bids that were from Naylor and Breen Builders of Brandon for $3,795,222 and from Farrington Construction of Shelburne for $3,796,754 — both almost $800,000 more than budgeted.

Faulkner also remarked at the Oct. 10 meeting about how unusually close the bids were with just over $1,500 separating Farrington’s high bid from Naylor and Breen’s bid.

The board appeared to be in consensus on rejecting the bids because both bids were so much more than what voters had approved.

The town budgeted $3 million to build a garage on Route 7 just south of Ferry Road and that was the amount of money more than 78 percent of ballots approved in a special election on Aug. 9.

The selectboard’s plan called for the town to apply for a bond or a bank note to borrow $1.5 million of the construction cost. The remainder would come from $500,000 that road commissioner Junior Lewis has saved from his budget over the years added to $1 million in town funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA.

After the vote to reject the bids, board members passed a motion for Faulkner and town administrator Dean Bloch to contact the bidders for “value engineering” of their bids.

That motion passed 3-0, with Faulkner abstaining, presumably because the motion concerned him.

The selectboard planned to have a specially called meeting about the cost of the garage this Wednesday, Nov. 2, but it was held after press time.