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Lowell City Council Wrapup

February 2, 2019

LOWELL -- Bids for the Hamilton Canal Innovation District parking garage came in more than $11 million over budget last year.

As a result, city officials are adjusting how they receive bids for this significant 980-space garage, which they hope results in lower costs in line with the $35 million budgeted.

This pricing update for the garage comes after officials had raised concerns that the garage will not be ready for the $200 million Lowell Justice Center next year.

The lowest bid -- of only two -- for the garage last year was $46.5 million, more than $11 million over anticipated prices.

“What came in from the two bidders was just way out of whack,” City Manager Eileen Donoghue said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

In the wake of these bids, the city will move from the traditional bid process, Design-Bid-Build, to the CM At-Risk process. Officials determined that the higher-than-expected bids resulted from a lack of competition.

Design-Bid-Build is more risky than the CM At-Risk process for construction firms. Multiple respected construction firms told the city they are focused primarily on CM At-Risk projects, and bid very few traditional bids.

The CM At-Risk bid process, which is underway for Lowell High School, can help “improve the bidding environment, reduce cost escalation, and improve the timeline through accelerated construction techniques,” Diane Tradd, director of the Department of Planning and Development, wrote in a report.

“This procurement process will generate more interest and competition in the bid process and provide transparent pricing to the city (as opposed to lump sum line items), among other advantages,” she later added.

Other hurdles the city faces: There are fewer than five pre-cast concrete fabricators in the northeast region and it appears only one firm worked with interested general contractors, which substantially increased costs; there are fewer than five slurry wall construction firms in this region and, again, it appears that only one firm worked with interested general contractors.

City officials have already identified the next steps to update the garage design to meet the project budget and updated timeline. The critical next steps include finalizing the documentation needed for the Inspector General submission and beginning work to secure a construction manager, which will be the new general contractor.

“DPD, Engineering, Parking, and the Manager’s Office staff participated in a kick-off meeting to identify a timeline and plan to deliver the HCID garage as quickly as possible that will also explore all cost-saving options available through the new construction approach,” Tradd wrote in the report.

In other business on Tuesday, the City Council:

* Received information on free cash certification.

* Denied a rezoning petition, which would have extended the regional retail district to include 55, 75 and 77-81 Phoenix Ave.

* Amended Ch. 9, Article V Planning Board, S. 9-15, by increasing Associate Members from one to two.

* Accepted a report on Polling Location Accessibility.

* Accepted a report on Mandatory Voter Purge.

* Accepted a report on Marijuana Revenue.

* Accepted a report on Downtown Pedestrian Crossings.

* Received a budget update, Governor’s Submittal.

* Reappointed Matthew Donahue and Marjorie Miller to Lowell Civic Stadium Commission.

* Accepted resignation of George DeLuca from Hunger Homeless Commission.

* Approved out-of-state travel for Career Center and Lowell Police Department.

* Appropriated certified free cash to various accounts.

* Transferred $10,000 in funds for inspectors’ overtime in Development Services.

Motions

* Request city manager have transportation engineer review the “dangerous” flow of traffic at the intersection of First Street, Bradley Street and Route 110.

* Request city manager provide a report regarding updated status of the Smith Baker Building.

* Request city manager have proper department provide the City Council a plan to design and build Lowell’s own municipal broadband network to provide our residents fast and affordable internet service.

* Request city manager instruct the Department of Planning and Development to assist the Dwelling House of Hope in finding an appropriate location for a residential program for women.

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.

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