Stevens Brook Bridge, Dam and Road Repair

| Letter to the editor from Beverly Cadigan |

The Stevens Brook bridge, dam and road repair project has spanned three different town managers and changes in membership of the select board.  The chronological details of actions taken by the Selectmen, the Town Managers, and Town Meeting votes associated with this project are as follows:

  • After going through the CIP process for the FY19 budget, the engineering and design of the Stevens Brook bridge and dam replacement was put on the warrant and the money for it was appropriated at Town Meeting in 2018 ($35,000).  The scope of the project was discussed before the vote and was verified to include replacement of both the bridge and the dam at Stevens Brook…thus maintaining the Pond.  At the same meeting, the Town appropriated $75,000 for the Bridge Capital Reserve Account.
  • The RFP for this engineering and design was prepared by the Town and approved by the selectmen.  It was sent out to bid with a mandatory on-site pre-bid inspection on August 20, 2018.  Bid proposals were due September 17, 2018.
  • This engineering/design project was awarded by the selectmen to Wright-Pierce Engineering. 
  • The scope of work in the RFP specified engineering for a bridge and replacement of existing dam.  Dredging of the Pond, thereby increasing the depth, was included to maintain the fire hole and slow the warming of the water in the Pond to provide oxygen for the fish (and thereby fishing) for a longer period of time in the summer.
  • At the 2019 Town Meeting, citizens voted to appropriate $100,000 for the Bridge Capital Reserve Account, and it was voted to move the leftover funds in the Woodman Road Account, $1,414, to the Bridge Reserve Account…in preparation for the Stevens Brook project.
  • The Selectmen accepted the engineering/design prepared by Wright-Pierce.  The project to execute this design was sent out to bid by the selectmen in the Fall of 2019 and the work was awarded to Shaw Brothers Construction (by the selectmen) in January of 2020 for a negotiated cost of $715,555. 
  • The next step was supposed to be the 2020 Town Meeting with an article on the warrant to “raise and appropriate” the money for the project.  If the article for the project money had passed, the culvert (a special design) would have been ordered right away to have it in time for construction in the summer of 2020. Then COVID-19 arrived.
  • Because Town Meeting was delayed, the culvert could not be ordered in time (by May 15th) for the 2020 summer construction season.  So, Paul First, as interim Town Manager, and the selectmen decided not to include the article for the project money on the warrant for the 2020 Town Meeting.
  • There was, however, an article on the 2020 Town Meeting warrant ballot (vote on July 14th) to raise and appropriate $11,000 for “permitting costs …  required to ensure that the project is shovel ready next spring”.  That article passed.

So here we are in April of 2021.

On April 13th (or before at the Town Hall) the citizens of new Gloucester finally get to vote on the article to “raise and appropriate” the money to actually do the Stevens Brook project.

But please keep the following in mind:

A. Given the question raised at last night’s (April 7, 2021) Selectmen’s meeting concerning interpretation of the cost of the project, I submit the following clarification:

— Article #2 on the warrant is asking for a vote to appropriate (yes or no) a sum not to exceed $785,000 to provide for the costs of the project.

— And to fund that appropriation as follows:

  1. Not to exceed $317,797 from:
    • Bridge Reserve Account…G1-405, $192,333
    • Road Construction Reserve Account…G1-385, $125,464
  2. Not to exceed $17,203 from the Undesignated Fund Balance
  3.  General Obligation Bond:
    • Principal amount not to exceed $450,000.
    • With an estimated interest rate of .55 to .79% for an estimated 5-year maturity…and estimated interest of $9,208.

— For a total cost of $794,208…including the interest on the Bond to complete the project.

 B. To be clear, a NO vote on this article and changing the scope of work would not save the Town money.

— First, as has been said, delaying the work makes everything more expensive.

— Second, the Town and the taxpayers have approved and spent money and time to get this project to where it is now.  That would be wasted… we would have to discount the money and time spent on the engineering and design of this project and start all over. 

— Third, if the scope of the project reverts to just a culvert and road repair it would not mean just taking out the dam, putting in a culvert, fixing the road and walking away.

— The appropriate culvert would have to be re-engineered based on the hydrology and hydraulics of just having a stream and no dam/impoundment (pond).  Removing a dam and impoundment on a brook governed by NRPA (National Resource Protection Act) would require different DEP permits and possibly an engineering design for the dam removal itself.  The project would have to include sediment management, ecological and channel restoration, impoundment revegetation, and removal of and riparian restoration to the parking area.  And perhaps, added to this would be the cost of a fire cistern elsewhere to protect the lower village.

— The Town would lose the fire pond and the dry hydrant. There would be no fishing pond…and we would be giving up a lovely and historic habitat for wildlife currently enjoyed by herons, ducks, muskrats, beavers, the occasional eagle, and many New Gloucester citizens.

— Probably this would take another 2 years or more and the road will have collapsed by then!

Beverly Cadigan

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this opinion piece are solely those of the author. Publication does not reflect endorsement by the NGXchange or its volunteers. NGX welcomes diverse viewpoints and invites your submissions. Learn more here.