By ERIC FRANCIS
HARTFORD – Four established bridge construction companies submitted competitive bids on Friday, looking to land the job of replacing the flood-damage Quechee Covered Bridge at the base of Waterman Hill – but even the apparent low bidder was still $600,000 over what the town has budgeted.
Miller Construction of Windsor, Vermont came in a half-a-million lower than the highest bid in the pack with a base bid of $1,950,139 but, assuming the town’s engineers confirm in the next few days that the bid proposal did indeed meet all of the contract specifications, that still leaves the town scrambling to come up with another $600K to fund the project.
“We are confident that there is a solution and we don’t anticipate any delays in the project,” Hartford Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg said at the close of business Friday after he’d huddled in his office for over an hour with Hartford Public Works Director Rich Menge and a couple of the selectmen.
“Nothing’s ever easy,” Rieseberg said, “Our tentative plan calls for some minor alteration in the construction plans and perhaps some changes in the timeline. We might also use some of this year’s budget surplus and undesignated fund balances to make up the difference. We’ll just have to figure out how to do things differently.”
Menge said the town has contracted repeatedly with Miller Construction over the years on a number of infrastructure projects, not just bridges, and has been pleased with the quality of the work. “Miller’s a good company with a good reputation,” Menge said.
Town officials have repeatedly said that the goal is to get at least the principal bridge structure – the support piers, bridge deck, and pedestrian walkways – open for regular traffic by December 1. Then, if necessary, the decorative wooden cover can be added at a later date to complete the covered bridge effect.
The styling of the covered bridge, which will have natural wood facing, was chosen by Quechee residents earlier this year and is quite similar to the one that had been there the past forty years up and that cover was itself designed as an homage to the actual covered bridge that stood next to the mills in downtown Quechee up until the 1927 flood.
“Once the contract verification is done I plan to sign a contract for construction late next week or early the following week,” Rieseberg said. “This needs to begin as soon as possible. We are still on track.”