High Bids Stymie Progress on Installing Sewers in Old Lyme

OLD LYME — Just two companies bid to install sewers in four beach communities in Old Lyme, and at costs which were significantly in excess of what had been estimated for the project.

The bids were $17.5 and $18.5 million — higher than the roughly $10 million estimate from engineering firm Fuss & O’Neill, said Scott Boulanger, said director of the Board of Governors of the Miami Beach Association. 

Officials from the three chartered beach communities and the town of Old Lyme told CT Examiner that the high bid had triggered a new bidding process that will split the project into three parts, with the hope of lower bids.

Rich Prendergast, chair of the town’s Water Pollution Control Authority, said that breaking the job apart could result in lower prices. 

“Instead of one super company that can manage everything and then hire subcontractors, you can have the subcontractors bid directly for the parts that they’re qualified to do, which brings more people to the table to effectively bid and you’re not paying for the profit of the super contractor to have subcontractors,” said Prendergast.

The project will be rebid separately as the pump house, the force main and pipes connecting Old Lyme to East Lyme’s sewer main, and the “trunk” set of pipes carrying effluent from the beach associations to the pump house.  

The total cost of the sewer installation will be shared among the town of Old Lyme’s Sound View Beach, the Miami Beach Association, Old Lyme Shores Beach Association and Old Colony Beach Club Association.

Matt Merritt, president of the Old Lyme Shores Beach Association, explained that only two out of nine contractors who responded to the request for proposal had actually bid on the project, and that one of the contractors had said that the project was too large. 

Merritt said that question of increased costs had added a layer of uncertainty to the future of the project.

“This 10 year project right now is, for lack of a better word, in limbo, but we certainly don’t know. If these prices stay where they are, we’ve got to make some decisions on it. We certainly want to stand by the mandate from the DEEP and stop polluting groundwater. But at the same time, at what time does the price outweigh the benefit? We have home owners where everyone will be affected on some level, but for some at these levels it’s a lot of money.” 

Merritt said between COVID and the escalating prices of materials and labor, the project has hit major obstacles.

“We have an infrastructure project that we are right in the middle of and after 10 years of designing and the effects of COVID, it couldn’t be a more perfect storm. It just hit everything and it came at the wrong times regarding stuff going out to bid in our opinion.”

Boulanger said he spoke about the project with the Miami Beach Association members last week at the association’s annual meeting. 

“I said, ‘I’ve been trying to be honest with you from day one… I can’t give you an answer on what is going to cost other than someone else telling me what they think it’s going to cost based on history and current prices. And until the bids come in, all bets are off.’”

He said that based on the latest bids, the beach association cannot afford the project even though the town is under an administrative order from the state. 

“We have an issue with pollutants, I don’t think the state of Connecticut is capable of giving us any more money,” Boulanger said. 

Both Merritt and Boulanger said the beach associations would explore the possibility of aid from President Biden’s relief package.

Douglas Whalen, chair of Old Colony Beach Association, said the new bidding process will delay the start of the project by about two months. 

“We were hoping to have a shovel in the ground in August. Now we’re hoping to have a shovel on the ground in the October timeframe,” he said. “It’s definitely a very active program and we definitely want to clean up the environment, so [the project] is not going to go dead.”

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