Bid Deadline for Library Project Slips Again Without Explanation



Potential Bidders Continue to Seek Clarification
The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) has contractually imposed two strict deadlines on the Jones Library Building Committee (JLBC) who are responsible for overseeing the library renovation-expansion project on behalf of the Town of Amherst.

First was a drop-dead date of November 17, 2023 for Finegold Alexander Architects (FAA) to complete construction documents, allowing the project to be bid out.

Second is a construction start deadline of June 30, 2024.  Should the JLBC miss either of these dates the MBLC could potentially withdraw the $15.5 million in grant money that it has awarded to Amherst.

Library building project schedule showing MBLC deadlines.  Source:

While some observers found the permitting process rushed, Library trustees announced that the project had met its deadline for completing the construction documents, accompanied by jubilation from project supporters. On January 10, 2024 the Town of Amherst submitted a statewide solicitation of bids declaring that General Contractor bids would be accepted until March 6, 2024.

See related Library Construction Documents: 3400 Pages of Specs Plus a Few Questions

Since January, the project has seen a flood of requests for information from interested contractors and two significant delays in the bid close date, calling into question whether the construction documents were truly ready for release when bids were first solicited.

In mid-February project representatives announced on the Massachusetts bid repository that the bid deadline was being postponed six weeks – to April 2 for sub-contractor bids and April 16 for general contractor bids.  Town Manager Paul Bockelman explained that the delay was needed to revise the design to accommodate unanticipated updates to the state plumbing code which became effective on December 8, 2023.

See related Library Construction Bid Deadlines Pushed Back

Meanwhile questions poured in from contractors.  Where is the Acoustical Specialty Ceiling spec? Who is responsible for purchasing insurance, the Town or the Contractor? (Answer: the Contractor). What product should be used for curtain wall framing since the specified product is no longer manufactured? Etc.

By March 29, 79 separate questions and requests for information had been submitted.  Project leaders announced that the closing of bids would be pushed out another week, until April 9 for sub-bids and April 23 for general bids.

And bidder questions continue to roll in.  As of April 5, 2024, 95 questions have been submitted with seven remaining to be answered.  Designers have had to file 13 separate addenda representing more than 850 pages of revised specs.

On March 29 project designers submitted 410-page Addendum #10 that replaced 12 sections of specifications and provided 70 new architectural drawings.  Source:

The delays could well have financial implications for the town.  The seven-week postponement of the bid close date can be expected to delay the start of construction by a similar amount, potentially resulting in an escalation of construction costs that typically rise steadily over time. 

The public has previously been kept informed about the status of the $46.1 million project at regular JLBC meetings, but Chair Austin Sarat has not called a meeting since January 4, 2024.  It is therefore unknown whether the Town of Amherst has incurred additional charges from FAA to make the necessary extensive revisions to the construction documents.  At the last JLBC meeting it was reported that FAA had earned $1,553,250 for design work culminating in the completed construction documents. A fee of $81,750 was anticipated for the bidding phase.

Through December 2023, Colliers Project Leaders had invoiced the town $230,538 for project management work.

The bid deadline slippage has also had the result of causing the library project bid period to overlap with the solicitation of pre-qualifications for contractors and sub-contractors for the $78 million Fort River Elementary School construction project.  Pre-qualification proposals are due on April 17, 2024.  This could have the effect of pitting the library project and school project in competition for the same limited pool of contractors.

Finally, there is the question of whether Amherst can afford to carry the Jones Library renovation-expansion forward to the construction phase.  The Town Council has authorized borrowing for the full estimated project cost of $46.1 million.  If bids come in higher, the council will either need to authorize additional borrowing to cover the increase, find a way to reduce costs in a design that has already been severely “value engineered” to address an unforeseen cost escalation of $10 million, or abandon the current expansion and pivot to lower cost library maintenance and repairs. 

With many Amherst residents viewing the library project cost as exorbitant and valuing the school budgets, roads, a new DPW and central fire station, the CRESS Department, and a new senior center as higher priorities, bid results will be awaited with great anticipation.

To date, $1.9 million in features have been value engineered out of the library design.  Source:
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5 thoughts on “Bid Deadline for Library Project Slips Again Without Explanation

  1. The last time the Jones Library building committee met was on January 4, 2024 (despite reporting to the state grant authority that the Committee “Continued holding weekly meetings between the owner, OPM, and Architects”). So they have not publicly discussed any of these delays in bid deadlines or construction start dates or delinquency in payments to the town.

    The Town Council has a regular agenda item to hear updates about this project (as it does for the school project and all Council committees). But none of these developments have been reported by the Town Manager and none of the Councilors have asked any questions or demanded any answers.

    They may be very personally incurious, but as representatives they have a fiduciary responsibility to the rest of us to know how their $46M decision is being managed.

  2. It is impossible to overstate the contribution to Amherst’s civic well-being of Jeff Lee’s and the INDY’s sober, detailed, and relentless reporting on the Jones Library’s demolition/expansion project.

  3. Thank you, Jeff Lee for your vigilance and continuing attempts to “enlighten” Amherst residents (especially taxpayers), of the consequences of this out of control spending. It seems pretty evident that so many promises made, are not promises kept, when it comes to spending.

    Tax bills are coming up soon. New property valuations are supposedly in the works, schools are begging for more funding, many want more new costly projects from the town, some are wishing for an override …. and everyone’s personal budgets have been increasing dramatically, due to inflation.

    My hope is that more people begin to read your articles and really respond. They can learn from your research and demand more accountability from those who insist on spending our money on these over-inflated projects. Or….even stop some projects before they get anymore out of control.

    I appreciate your intelligence, concern, care and effort in providing us with clearer insight into what is happening in Amherst.

  4. Jeff Lee is our “Archibald Cox” – and thankfully, no “bleeping Bork” can orchestrate his firing!

  5. Thanks for the kind words, Dale, and for urging citizens to pay attention and speak up.

    Leaders who blame Amherst’s money troubles on Proposition 2 1/2 and not on poor spending decisions are ignoring two important facts.

    1. Hefty revaluations drove the average Amherst tax bill up 5.1% in 2022, 4.4% in 2023 and 4.8% in 2024.
    2. The debt exclusion for the new Fort River School that will begin hitting us in FY25 is projected to add $1.01 per $1000 of property valuation per year. That’s an additional $560 every year for the average single family home. FY25 is only three months away.

    Recall that Councilor Ellisha Walker proposed lessening the tax bite of the debt exclusion by directing $5 million of the Town’s capital reserves toward the cost of the new school. For reasons that may not have been fully acknowledged, library fundraisers Kent Faerber and Matt Blumenfeld opposed the measure and it never gained traction in the Finance Committee.

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