On December 22, 2022

Hartland intersection redo estimates is high

By Curt Peterson

The controversial Hartland Three Corners intersection of Route 5, Route 12 and Quechee Road redesign and renovation project came close to demise at the Monday, Dec. 19 Select Board meeting.

Members were asked to commit to a planned Jan. 4 “request for proposals” (bid invitations) based on engineers’ latest estimate of total cost $1,496,060 — three times the original estimate and $434,560 over the amount currently budgeted.

The gross price tag, excluding grants, and including insurance costs, will be closer to $1.9 million, Hobbie said.

Town Manager David Ormiston Hartland’s highway fund had a long-held surplus available to cover the overage.

Board chair Phil Hobbie said the 2014 estimate didn’t include a “contingency” margin, landscaping or sidewalks. Once they were included the project cost became more realistic.

“But that’s Monday morning quarterbacking,” he said.

Two Rivers Ottauquechee Regional Commission project manager Rita Seto said a lot of work is going into preparing the bidding process. The RFP will be sent to about 25 contractors, and the timing is right to attract multiple bids by the Feb. 10 deadline.

Hobbie thinks the bids will be close to the engineers’ estimate, and the board will be faced with another decision – whether to choose a winning contractor or return the grant money and permanently kill the project, “which has overwhelming community support”, entirely.

Board member Clyde Jenne said only 5% of Hartland voters approved the project by a “slim margin” at the 2014 Town Meeting. “That means that just over 2.5%  of the voters approved the project, not “overwhelming town approval.”

Hobbie told the Mountain Times he agrees with Jenne about the 2014 vote, but noted voters passed $1,062,000 bond two-to-one in 2020 via Australian Ballot.

Seto, Hobbie, Ormiston and audience member Matt Dunne all warned that dropping the project, now or in February, might hurt Hartland’s reputation with potential contractors and with the state, weakening the town’s position when seeking bids or grants for future projects.

Board members Mary O’Brien, Mandi Potter and Jim Rielly voiced growing concerns for varying reasons, particularly resulting in further deferred maintenance and repair of roads and buildings.

The town is doing the project for safety reasons, though Routes 5 and 12 are state highways.

“The state has deprioritized doing anything about the redesign because there have been no fatalities at the intersection,” O’Brien said.

After lengthy back-and-forth discussions, Rielly made a motion to cancel the planned January RFP distribution, citing other overdue infrastructure investments that need attention.

No one seconded the motion.

“Failing to have a second, the motion fails,” Hobbie announced, “and the RFP will go forward as planned.”

Seto said work should start in the spring, and should be substantially completed by next fall.

Hobbie said that he is glad the project is continuing to move forward, and realizes board members may have similar hesitation when bids are in hand and the final trigger has to be pulled.

O’Brien said putting the contractors to the expense and effort of preparing and submitting bids, then pulling the plug on the project would be unfair.

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