Public Comment: Who’s Watching the Books?


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The following public comment was made by Maria Kopicki at the April 16, 2024, Finance Committee meeting.

This past fall, the Finance Committee and the Town Council held many discussions before they took votes to authorize $46M for the library project. One of the things that came out of these meetings was a cash flow analysis that was supposed to indicate when the Town would receive and spend money. Since then, a lot has happened, and a lot hasn’t happened, but no public body is talking about any of it.

The construction bid deadline was set originally for February 28, but this deadline has been pushed back twice so far, first to April 16 and then to April 23. That’s a two month delay. There have been 19 addenda so far to the initial construction documents, the most recent posted today (after the subcontractor bids were received) and including multiple sections being replaced in their entirety. Potential bidders have thus far submitted 97 requests for information. 

When the decision about borrowing was made in the Fall, the schedule from the OPM showed a March 2024 construction start and August 2025 completion. In February, the OPM schedule showed a three month delay in construction, projected to start in June 2024 with completion in November 2025. This latest, however, was produced before the move to a temporary location was pushed out to mid May. There have been no discussions about the financial impacts of these delays.

Subcontractor bids were also pushed back and were finally received last week. There were no bidders for the elevators so that has to be folded into the GC contract, and there was only one bidder for HVAC, Fire Protection, and Metals. For two others  (Electrical & Roofing), there were only two bidders.  

In the meantime, the Library has failed to meet its first promised payment to the Town. Less than $250,000 of the $2M it said it would pay by January 31 was received on time and $900,000 remains in arrears. If the remainder is not paid before the Town has to borrow to pay for construction, interest on those short term borrowings will presumably be even higher than the more than $3/4M that was estimated in November. 

This is a public project and the financial implications of all of these issues must be addressed publicly. But through all of these past several months, to my knowledge, no one on the Town Council or Finance Committee has demanded any updates and no information has been forthcoming. The Jones Library Building Committee has met only once, on January 4, more than 3 months ago. Multiple deadline shifts, multiple addenda and scores of RFIs, delinquent payments of almost $1M, and our elected representatives and Town officials are completely silent. 

Maria Kopicki is a resident of Amherst’s District 5.

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1 thought on “Public Comment: Who’s Watching the Books?

  1. Make that 22 addenda. Two more were posted today 4/19/24 – one of which yet again pushes back the bid deadline! General bids were due next Tuesday April 23rd but that has now been pushed back to next Friday April 26.

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