Library Construction Docs in Disarray as Town Payments Pass $2M



Deadline for General Contractor Bids Slips for the Third Time
When construction documents for a large public project such as the $46.1 million Jones Library renovation-expansion are put out to bid, it is not unusual for interested contractors to seek clarification on what can be complex specifications.

Bidding for the new $39.5 million Belmont Public Library generated 50 requests for information (RFIs) from bidders which were fully answered in 8 addenda issued by the designers.  The bidding process was successfully wrapped up in six weeks.

Bidding for a new $23.4 million DPW facility in Hudson gave rise to 72 questions from interested bidders.  These were fully answered in 4 addenda and bidding was completed in six weeks.

The Jones Library building project and its designers, Finegold Alexander Architects (FAA) are encountering a rockier road.  Faced with a contractual requirement from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) to have construction documents finalized by November 17, 2023, Jones Library Building Committee (JLBC) chair Austin Sarat announced at the December 13 Board of Trustees meeting that the documents had been completed.  In an invitation to bid placed on the electronic bidding website on January 10, 2024, the Town solicited bids for demolition and construction with a filing deadline of March 6, 2024. Since then prospective bidders have submitted 98 RFIs and the designers and project leaders have answered with 22 addenda containing more than 1100 pages of clarifications, revised technical specifications and replacement drawings.

Potentially troubling is the fact that seven of these addenda were posted after the April 9 deadline for sub-contractor bids had passed.  Sub-bids had been received for specialized work such as plumbing, electrical, HVAC and roofing.  Addendum #15, listed as appearing on April 15, replaced 53 pages of electrical technical specs.  Addendum #20, posted on April 17, clarified requirements for wall paneling and stair treads and declared that plumbing and all other permit and inspection fees have been waived.

Massachusetts regulates municipal procurement of construction services in Mass. General Laws Chapter 30, Section 39M and Chapter 149 and has published Frequently Asked Questions. The FAQ guides towns to release any substantive addenda to construction documents at least two days before bids are opened to lower the risk that a losing bidder may protest the fairness of the process.

During the time this report is being written on April 19, two more addenda have been filed on Biddocs.  Addendum #22 contains 114 pages of new technical information on Signage.  Addendum #21 announces that the deadline for filing general contractor bids for the library project has been postponed for three days to April 26, 2024, at 2:00 p.m. This is more than 15 weeks after the invitation for bids first went out.

See related Bid Deadline for Library Project Slips Again Without Explanation

The general bid date for the Jones Library building project has been moved to Friday, April 26.  Source:

Cost of Developing Construction Documents Exceeds $2 million
A report provided by Town of Amherst Comptroller Holly Drake shows all costs accrued by the library building project through April 9, 2024.  To date the town has run up charges of more than $2 million for design services, project management, cost estimation and other contracts.

Drake explains that all expenses have been charged to an interest-bearing account that holds the first disbursement of $2,774,263 in construction grant money received in late 2021 from the MBLC.

Amherst has invested more than $2 million in developing construction documents for the library project.  Source:

Should the bids come in higher than the $35.5 million budgeted for construction and result in a town share of project costs greater than $15.8 million, the difficult decision to cancel the project may need to be made.  This will require that the Town return the $2.7 million it has received  from the MBLC plus $96,420 in interest that has accumulated.

The Jones Library Trustees have signed an agreement with the town to direct $1.8 million out of their own revenue sources toward building repairs if the project does not proceed past the bidding phase.

Town leaders, including the Jones Library Building Committee, the Town Council and the Town Manager, have thus far kept mum on the subject of why, despite the town’s $2 million investment, producing stable comprehensive construction documents has proved such a challenge.

See related Public Comment: Who’s Watching the Books?

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5 thoughts on “Library Construction Docs in Disarray as Town Payments Pass $2M

  1. A close look at that expense report reveals yet another problem. 16 payments, totaling over $300,000, were made in February, March. and April. It is standard practice for the committee responsible for a public project to be presented with invoices and then take a vote to authorize payment. The last invoices the JLBC authorized were for $7,984 for Colliers (the OPM) and $136,250 for FAA (the architects) on January 4 – the last time the JLBC met. So, who (if anyone) authorized all those payments since then, when, and with what authority?

  2. It is very hard to read all of this when there is no visible progress on the Fire House or DPW Property. And Senior Center? The longer one delays the more expensive it will all be. And if planning, site location and funding decisions are not developed now then one loses even more years towards being “Shovel Ready”. The tragedy is that the cost of a new Firehouse is far lower than the price points for the new school and library. Williamsburg MA just opened a new 8,000 square foot facility for $5.3M. The school and library would total $120M? $130M? And does it trouble anyone that the Firehouse sits a chip shot from the LIbrary? These are horrible optics. If Amherst does not have funding for all of these projects then one cannot allow one project to receive most of the scarce dollars we have. And please do not say that the LIbrary has to forge ahead because it has state funding. So does that mean all other town projects are DOA because they do not? And is it true that the Senior Center also needs to be re-built or relocated? Hadley in the last 15 years has succesfully re-built a new Police/FD Public Safety Building, a new Senior Center, a new Library for $8M and is now on the fast track to expand their DPW Facility. Please do not say that this is easy because they are smaller town because that answer makes no sense.

  3. Regarding those 16 payments that the Town made in February, March, and up to mid April, without getting votes of approval from the Jones Library Building Committee as is common practice, and stipulated in the committee’s charge: “Review, evaluate, and approve all project invoices”, I added the payments up and compared them to the contracts with Finegold Alexander Architects (FAA) and Colliers (the OPM). They have far exceeded the contracted fee.
    For FAA, the total agreed upon fee for the Bid phase was $81,750.
    Up to mid-April, the Town paid FAA $263,897.78, which is $182,147.78 MORE than was contracted.
    Was all of this extra work by FAA due to inadequate construction documents?
    How can the Town approve paying beyond the contracted fee, and out of the public eye?
    Also, if my math is correct, it looks like Colliers has been paid almost $11,000 more than was contracted for the design & bidding phase.
    And there was also $22,004.50 for Atlas Technical Consultants for Asbestos Abatement & Monitoring, and HAZMAT inspection and design.

    Clearly this bid phase is costing a lot more than was budgeted, and without any Building Committee meetings, this is all happening out of the public eye.

  4. This Week at the Jones Library: April 28 – May 4, 2024

    “Library Tours Cancelled
    Saturday, April 27 at 11:00 am
    Friday, May 3 at 10:00 am
    The previously scheduled library tours have been cancelled. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

    The handwriting on the wall.

  5. Getting this lone bid, which would entail at least an additional $10M in principal and interest financing if it were accepted, is effectively a vote of “No Confidence” in the elected and appointed leadership of the Jones Library, Incorporated.

    In the face of this watershed — indeed, Waterloo — event, there’s one honorable thing for the leadership to do….

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