Editorial: Good project news

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Under budget — two words everyone loves to hear.
The town is getting some great news regarding the Miller-Driscoll school renovation project. Construction bids are in and they are a bit more than $5 million under budget. With state reimbursement of around $7 million, that brings the price of the project to $38 million for taxpayers.

What this means is that, barring major unforeseen circumstances, the town will not have to borrow as much money as originally thought. But even in the case of unforeseen circumstances, there is a sizable — $3.4 million — contingency to cover those costs. If things go well, some of that money will go unspent, too.

There had been some talk of “returning” savings to the general fund, but that is not how a project like this works. Money is borrowed as needed — so far around $8 million has been borrowed and $6.3 million has been spent. Since the town generally borrows money in February, that is when the next portion will be financed.

Many angry words have been spoken regarding this project, and it is time for people to take a breath and look at what needs to be done.

Turner Construction has been hired for a reason. It has been chosen to manage the project — an undertaking too large and complicated for a committee — and one of its jobs is to review the bids. It has done so and made its recommendations. Its people know the intricacies of the work to be done and the companies that will do it far better than the committee. Some are not happy with the selection of Turner, but that is not at issue anymore. This is not to say the community cannot look at what has been put forth, but micromanaging is not on the table. It is time to move forward.

The urgency of signing contracts is not akin to a car dealer saying, “I have a great deal for you only if you sign today.” It is important get underway in a timely manner. The bids are good for only 60 days. Turner is trying to get heavy work done when children are not in school. That leaves only a few windows of opportunity, and Turner has said it will take every one, from scheduled holidays to snow days to weekends if necessary.

Many people have said there is a need for this renovation project and then there is a big “but.” Those with questions should attend a building committee meeting and ask them. There is always time for public comment. Those who attended Tuesday’s meeting asked their questions and got answers.