The planned construction of a new public safety building in Skowhegan was disrupted Tuesday when selectmen rejected a request for additional funding for the work. The construction site at 51 E. Madison Ave. is shown Wednesday. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

SKOWHEGAN — A planned $10 million public safety building hit a snag this week when the Board of Selectmen voted 3-2 to reject a request to add another $83,289 to the contracted amount for the project.

Travis Noyes from Haley Ward Inc., a Bangor-based architectural and engineering firm, told selectmen Tuesday the load requirements for the building necessitate a different foundation plan from what was originally conceived. He also said the foundation must include mass footings.

“We can’t design something that’s not going to function — that’s going to fail,” Noyes said.

Jason Jendrasko of Westbrook-based Benchmark Construction said the loads that came in from Murox, the manufacturer of the pre-engineered building, were different from those shown at the time he and others were working through the process. The town had approved an $8.25 million “guaranteed maximum project” contract with Benchmark for the work.

“It’s industry standard with a pre-engineered metal building to evaluate the structural loads once you get under contract,” Jendrasko told selectmen.

The town also has a $665,000 contract with Haley Ward as part of the project. Outside of that and the Benchmark contract, the town has almost $750,000 for equipment for the building.


Town Manager Christine Almand said Wednesday the vote by selectmen does not put the project on hold, and she still estimates the building will arrive from Canada, where it is being manufactured, within the next two months, with a plan to be occupied next June.

“I’m going to work toward scheduling an executive session fairly quickly so that the board can meet and get a legal opinion and have a conversation with counsel so they can determine the next steps,” Almand said.

Those steps could include reconsidering the change order or negotiating the order, she said, adding that both contracts include dispute resolution processes, including mediation or arbitration.

She said her team and the contractors have been meeting weekly to work through project details, logistics, permits and other matters. The cost of the change order was originally $97,677, and they were able to trim that cost.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Selectman Harold Bigelow said he did not buy the idea the town should pay more than the agreed-upon $8.25 million contract with Benchmark. He likened the agreement to that of buying a truck.

“We ordered a pickup, and now you’re saying we can’t have it unless we spend more money,” Bigelow said. “We signed on the dotted line.”


Selectmen voted in January to hire Benchmark. Residents in 2020 passed an $8.9 million bond to build the combined fire and police station at the corner of East Madison Road and Dunlop Lane.

Bids for construction initially came in greater than what officials expected, but they responded by making some cost-cutting changes.

Selectmen Chairman Todd Smith said Tuesday that everyone agreed on a guaranteed maximum project price, and while he understands loads, he also understands residents voted not to exceed a certain dollar amount.

Heavy equipment is parked Wednesday near fencing at the construction site for the new Skowhegan public safety building at 51 E. Madison Ave. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Selectman Paul York, who served on the town’s public safety building committee, said selectmen could point blame, but everyone worked hard to make the project viable. He said he knows the change order is a sore spot because the contractors are asking for more money, but through the process, changes and cuts had to be made.

When the process started, he said, selectmen, taxpayers and voters dragged their feet for a couple of years and the project ended up costing more because costs increased. Selectmen could drag the process out longer, he added, but they should approve the additional funding.

“I just think we need to move forward with this,” York said.


Almand said the town has $282,000 in contingency funds available to pay for the scope of changes needed.

Town Clerk Gail Pelotte asked if anyone really thought the town would take on a large responsibility, such as a public safety building, and not imagine there might be a change order.

Selectman Charles Robbins rejected the idea the town should fund the change.

“That’s on them” he said of the contractor. “I don’t see how that can be on us.”

Noyes said the load information that came after the bid was awarded was unforeseen by everyone involved.

“We did not anticipate that reaction load to come through,” he said.


Bigelow, meanwhile, said all that is visible at the construction site is a “trench.” Almand responded by saying it might appear little work has been done, but he reminded those present that the building is pre-engineered.

“It is in production,” she said. “When it gets delivered here, it’s going to go up fast, so that’s the difference.”

Noyes warned there is a risk to not approving the change order.

“If you don’t start right, with the right foundation, then the building won’t stand up,” he said. “I can’t stand behind a building that is unsafe.”

He said the change order is warranted and necessary to move forward with the project, and based on a review of the contract, no error was made.

If selectmen reject the request and the matter is litigated, according to Selectman Steve Govoni, the town would have to prove negligence, and the intention of negligence, and it would end up paying twice the amount of the project in legal costs.


“I’m going to vote to move forward with paying for the change order,” Govoni said.

He and York voted to approve that order, while Smith, Bigelow and Robbins voted against.

Resident Judi York stood at the meeting to chastise the board.

“I’m angry,” she said. “As a taxpayer, I’m very angry. This project has been going on for so many years. It has been derailed, but it was finally voted on.”

York, the mother of Paul York, said the town has money in its contingency to fund the change order, and instead the project is being derailed again.

“When will we see a new public safety building?” she asked. “Three years from now? How long is it going to take?”

She said the board should acknowledge there was a problem with the change order and move forward.

“It’s not right, but we still need that building,” Judi York said. “That’s my money sitting there. I’m a taxpayer and I want that building done. You keep talking, Harold (Bigelow), about nothing being done. Well nothing’s going to be done, and what are you selectmen going to say to the taxpayers?”

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