Officials Ponder Future of New Underwood Pool

What now?

After the sudden withdrawal on Aug. 28 of the (only) low bidder to construct the $5.2 million new Underwood Pools complex, town officials are scrambling to discover a way to keep the project “on time and budget” to allow the facility to open for the 2015 summer recreation season.

That process begins on Tuesday, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. when the Underwood Pool Building Committee – the public group that coordinated the new facility’s final design and its detailed budget – will meet to discuss the current lay of the land and the series of options. The committee will bring their suggestions to the Belmont Board of Selectmen on Wednesday, Sept. 3 at 8 a.m.

The committee “would like to review the options going forward with the Town Administrator [David Kale] and the Board of Selectmen,” said Committee member Adam Dash in a press release issued last week.

Under the Building Committee’s tentative timeline, construction on the two-pool complex was scheduled to begin in September with completion by the first day of summer 2015, replacing the 102-year-old existing historic structure that closed for the final time on Monday, Sept. 1.

Woburn-based Seaver Construction was the only of the five bidders that came in under the committee’s $4.16 million construction budget. Soon after submitting its $3.84 million plan, the construction firm withdrew its offer claiming it made a “clerical error” in determining their cost in completing the project. Belmont officials noted that despite the miscalculation, Seaver would have stayed within the Building Committee’s budget.

The next closest proffer to build the complex came from New England Builders and Contractors, Inc. at $4.55 million.

While both committee members and town officials are keeping their opinions close to their vests before the two public meetings, the new Underwood Pool appears to be impacted by a dramatic shift in the demand for the same contractors who can build Belmont’s pools. In the past year, there has been a boom in private-sector building throughout Boston, according to a May 12, 2014 article in ENR.com

With billions of dollars in the pipeline in greater metropolitan Boston – from Boston’s waterfront to Watertown’s Assembly Square – the demand for general contractors has skyrocketed, and so have their fees. Nor does it appear that this trend will subside anytime soon.

“As for the private marketplace, Mark Warren, senior vice president and managing director of WSP’s Building Systems, believes there is enough work throughout the metro region for years to come.

“Everyone says you are going to saturate the market at some point,” he says. “But there is research showing that existing space is being consumed and that more is needed.”

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