Barnard House bids higher than expected

Pocopson supervisors debate whether to rebid the project, or seek negotiation

By Kelli Siehl, Staff Writer, The Times

The future for the Barnard House renovation may be facing a stormy future as township supervisors disagreed Monday night whether or not to put the project out to rebid, after the first series of bids to renovate the building came in higher than budgeted.

POCOPSON — During Monday’s township Board of Supervisors meeting, officials said they were disappointed that bids came back “way over” expectations in order to renovate the Barnard House for use as the township’s offices.

At a previous Supervisors’ meeting, Chair Steve Conary said officials were hoping to spend around $800,000 to transform the historic structure into usable space for the township. Four separate bid packages went out last month in the areas of General Construction, Plumbing, Mechanical and Electrical.

Bids were opened on Sept. 4 and Conary said the lowest bids received “are in the area of a million twenty – plus more for construction oversight and contingency allowances.”

Following the announcement, Conary introduced a motion to reject the bids in order to send the project back to the architect — Dennis Melton — where changes can be made to bring the project back within the original cost projection. The bid package would be modified and the project sent out for rebid.

Vice Chair, Georgia Brutscher questioned the motion to reject the bids, arguing that the township “spent a lot of money and time preparing the package for bid” and said she would like to see if officials could legally work with the low bidders to bring the costs down.

Conary cautioned that if the township goes through “value engineering, the other bidders may not be happy with being unable to rebid the project.”

Brutscher held her ground stating, “If it doesn’t work out, we can rebid the project and if that doesn’t work out we can table the project.” Brutscher, a longtime advocate of the renovation, expressed frustration at the time and cost involved to taxpayers to “start all over again.”

Conary noted that one option may be to call in the four low bidders and discuss ways of cutting costs without rebidding the project.

Since, according to Conary, “we have 60 days to make a decision,” Supervisors agreed to table the motion and seek counsel from the township attorney, engineer and architect before pursuing any further course of action.

Also at Monday’s meeting, Conary asked his colleagues what the township is going to do to reduce sediment in local waterways.  Conary proposed increasing the township’s budget to show an effort in fulfilling some of the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) requirements for renewing its Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) permit.

Conary said the township is currently spending a little over $13,000 dollars a year on items related to MS4 and proposed raising the amount to $25,000 per year – an increase of nearly 50%. Conary added that the DEP wants the township to spend close to $80,000 a year.

Brutscher refused to support the program, saying the “DEP has not even proven that it’s going to do any good and to raise the budget over 50% in these times…I have a problem with it.”

After a lively discussion, officials agreed to raise the budgeted amount to $16,000 per year – a 20% increase. It’s something, Conary said, to show a good faith effort in meeting the requirements.

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  1. Steve says:

    I’m glad at least one supervisor seems to at least be considering the “cost to taxpayers” of this white elephant project.

  2. Why not just lease normal office space at a fraction of the cost to taxpayers?

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