Library Construction Bid Deadlines Pushed Back



Changes in state plumbing codes have forced some delays in acquiring bids for the reconstruction of Amherst’s Jones Library. Construction bids were originally due to the town on February 21 for subcontractor bids, and March 6 for general contractor bids. The town has extended both deadlines: to April 2 for subcontractors and April 16 for general contractors. The new deadlines are listed on the town’s bidding site and on Postings on  indicate that the extensions were authorized in mid February. The town posted three addenda to the request for bids, the first in early February noting several changes to the electrical construction documents. A second addendum posted on February 15, notified contractors of the extended due dates “due to changes required by the new Uniform State Plumbing Code 248 CMR 10:00”. This plumbing code update is dated December 8, 2023. The town has received 59 requests for additional information from contractors.

The Indy reached out to Town Manager Paul Bockelman, Town Council President Lynn Griesemer, Town Council Building Committee representative Pam Rooney, and Jones Library Building Committee Chair Austin Sarat asking how the extensions will impact the construction timeline, and whether the extensions create any risk of not meeting the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners’ deadline of having all construction contracts signed by June 30, 2024.

Bockelman responded, “Recent changes to the State Plumbing Code had to be incorporated into the bid documents, which required additional time. There is ample time built into the schedule to accommodate changes such as this. We expect to meet all required deadlines.”

Library Director Sharron Sharry responded to an inquiry from Rooney with the updated project timetable below that indicates the plumbing code redesign being completed the first week in March, awarding a contract to a general contractor by May 8, 2024, beginning construction in early June 2024, and completing the project by the end of October 2025. 

Updated Jones Library renovation timetable as of 2/272/2024. Source: Jones Library

Delays Piling Up
This delay adds to a growing list of delays for the Jones project. 

Agreement with Strong House
At the December 8 meeting of the Planning Board, Sharry informed the board that all necessary agreements with the abutting  Amherst History Museum/Strong House had been obtained (see also here).  Those necessary agreements included a request by the Jones for a 20 foot construction easement on the Strong House lot. As of February  25, the Strong House has not yet granted that easement and the project cannot proceed without it (see also here).

Temporary Location of Library Collections
The town missed the January 31, 2024 milestone it had set to contract for a space to move the Jones library collections during construction. While the trustees recently suggested at a meeting that they have located a suitable space, they have not yet publicly identified that space and an agreement is yet to be signed.

Payments to the Town
The Jones Library Trustees missed their first scheduled payment to the town of $2M due on January 31, 2024, tendering instead only $300,000 while offering no explanation for the shortfall or a timetable for getting in-sync with their previously-agreed-upon payment schedule (see also here). Despite assertions by the Trustees that a large remittance was upcoming, as of the posting of this article, no other funds have been received in fulfillment of this obligation.

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6 thoughts on “Library Construction Bid Deadlines Pushed Back

  1. I’m sure it’s not uncommon for contractors to find discrepancies in complex building design documents when preparing their bids, but is it common for architects/designers/OPMs to be unaware of/exclude a state building code change? The Plumbing Code update went into effect on December 8th. The bid documents were published on January 24th. It appears that it took potential bidders to identify that the drawings did not comply with the current code and it now requires a redesign and has the knock-on effect of a 6-8 week delay, which presumably adds cost.

    Also, I noted that the one question from contractors that is still in “pending” status relates to “Builder’s Risk” and who is responsible for it. Wayne J. Griffin Electric wrote on February 5 (more than 3 weeks ago),
    “Please advise if Owner or Contractor/CM will buy the builder’s risk property insurance for this project. Also, can you confirm that trade contractors/subcontractors of all tiers will be named insureds under the policy per widespread industry practice? Finally, can you tell us what the basic deductible will be under the policy and who will be required to pay it if an accident happens-I) Owner, 2) Contractor/CM, 3) Trade Contractor/Subcontractor?”

    Has this been factored into the budget? If not, how much will it add to the project cost?

  2. The question of insurance is an important one.

    In my former role as Administrator for a local nonprofit, I dealt with insurance requirements on several contracts that the agency had with the Town of Amherst. There is a saying in Spanish: “In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” I certainly felt one-eyed — and half-brained — when reading the sections of each contract that dealt with insurance. But I knew enough to eventually figure out that the insurance coverage being requested had nothing to do with the projects, and had to push back against what was being required.

    One contract actually requested coverage for tunnel collapses and explosive devices! I finally realized that the language must have come from an excavation and construction contract, typed the paragraph into Google, and found the boilerplate contract that it came from. When I let Town Hall know that that section of the contract needed serious revision (and sent them what my research had found), no one seemed terribly phased — no real apologies, and no sense of embarrassment.

    The fact that I received a contract with an insurance section that had been copied and pasted from a generic contract available on the web — and a section that was completely inappropriate for the project in question — seems to indicate that insurance matters are poorly understood by Town Hall, and are not seen as terribly important. No answers to the question about “Builder’s Risk” seems to support this conclusion. Contractors would be well within their rights to approach this project with extreme caution.

  3. A quick google search on what changes are in the new plumbing code led me to this helpful webpage which focuses on plumbing fixtures:

    I wonder what changes FAA is now scrambling to make to the Jones Library design to comply with the updated code. Do they need to change the partition door type? Do they need to find space to squeeze in more fixtures/more lavatories someplace? Are there changes required to the plumbing system design? And how much does all of this add to the total project cost?

    It would be helpful if the Jones Library Building Committee met and shared all of this information, informing those of us that are paying for this project what is going on. As far as I can tell, they haven’t had a meeting since January 4th, almost two months ago. The absence of information can lead to all sorts of speculation.

  4. A review of the monthly reports ( sent from the Jones Library to the MBLC (Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners) is very interesting.

    For example, the one from December 2023 notes that the “MBLC approved 100% construction documents, 12-11-23”. That’s three days AFTER the plumbing code change went into effect. Then, the one from January 2024 notes that interior designs “continued to be developed including … plumbing code changes”. Were the OPM, designers, and state funding agency (MBLC) not aware of plumbing code changes in December? Surely this is the type of thing they should know about.

    Also curious is the statement in monthly reports to the MBLC since July 2023 that the JLBC (Jones Library Building Committee) has “Continued holding weekly meetings between the owner, OPM, and Architects”. In fact, the JLBC hasn’t even convened monthly, meeting a total of 6 times in the past 7 months, and four of those meetings lasted less than 35 minutes each. If other meetings have been happening, they have not been public.

  5. This article, and the substantive commentary above, paints a grim picture of the attention to detail — or rather, the lack thereof — by the Jones Library leadership. For a construction project of this magnitude, that attention* to detail is absolutely essential.

    I speak from experience, having led the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) advisory committee to oversee the redesign and reconstruction of the Norwottuck Rail Trail between 2006 and 2015 (a much bigger project geographically, though much simpler technologically, with an overall project budget about a third the size of the Jones demolition/reconstruction project, funded mostly from federal transportation awards secured by the late Congressman Olver).

    Our advisory committee recognized that the project engineering firm (that had been hired prior to any of us joining the committee) proved in several ways to be incompetent; and fortunately we were able to negotiate its replacement with the DCR and MassDoT to get the project done.

    Expecting the Jones Library leadership to recognize that something much worse may be happening here with its design firms (but — to paraphrase Bob Dylan — they don’t know what it is) seems out of the question….

  6. The insurance requirement seems to have been clarified by an addendum recently appearing on the library project’s page stating that the Contractor is responsible for buying insurance that protects “the Owner, the Contractor, Subcontractors and Sub-subcontractors.”

    There are signs that the contractors preparing bids are dissatisfied with the completeness of the construction documents. The number of questions and requests for information now total 61, with the latest writing,

    “I understand the bid date has been moved out quite far, but there are a lot of unanswered questions that I sent on February 1st & 2nd. These are questions that need to be answered in order for the vendors to be able to price, so sooner rather than later would be appreciated. Some of the vendors/manufacturers take a minimum of 3-4 weeks to price. Thank you.”

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