With still no end date in sight for the Tisbury Emergency Services Facility building, now long overdue for completion, one town selectman expressed open frustration Tuesday and called for a new strategy.
“We have to have an end game here,” said selectman Tristan Israel. “Maybe the end game at this point should be, this is the end, we are going to hire our own people to do it [complete the building], and we are going to go to court and charge [the contractor] back with the difference.”
The $7.38 million, 18,000-square-foot building on West Spring street, across from the elementary school, was approved by voters three years ago and was due to be completed last summer. Construction flaws identified more than a year ago included a misaligned foundation, buckled steel supports and drainage issues. The general contractor, Seaver Construction of Woburn, has already paid the town more than $18,000 in penalties to cover damages and project delays. The latest move-in date for the building was July 1. The building will house the town fire, ambulance and emergency management staff and equipment.
The discussion at the selectmen’s meeting Tuesday came following a report from building committee chairman Joseph Tierney on a punch list of items, finished and unfinished. Mr. Tierney said wood shingles have been replaced on the front of the building, and he expects to receive a report next week from the roof inspector. There are still no results back from an asphalt test done on the paved aprons around the building. The asphalt work was done by White Brothers-Lynch Corporation.
Responding to Mr. Israel’s idea, town administrator John Bugbee said bringing in new contractors at this stage could cause other problems, including the warranties on the roof of the building.
“I hear you, but we’ve been hearing this for two years,” Mr. Israel replied. “We can’t go through the winter, which it looks like we are heading into, with this stuff going on. If there are warranty issues, maybe the problem is that they did not do the right work to begin with.”
Mr. Bugbee said he will explore the possibility of hiring new contractors.
And Mr. Israel was not the only one unhappy about the ESF building this week. Clifford and Leah Dorr, whose property abuts the building, attended the selectmen’s meeting to complain that a promised landscape plan to screen the building from their residential property was never completed. “When you come out of our door or our driveway, the full view of the ESF building is essentially our view, and you feel like you’re right on display,” said Mrs. Dorr. “We were told that plantings would be put in to help screen our property, and there was a little bit of landscaping that happened. However, it was done in a very haphazard way.”
She added: “You don’t feel like there’s a lot of care and effort in restoring the property line.”
The Dorrs said they would be happy to do the landscaping work themselves if the town would supply the plants and other materials. Mrs. Dorr estimated the cost at $6,000.
Selectman and board chairman Jeffrey Kristal apologized for the problems and promised that the board will review the proposal and have an answer for the Dorrs in a week.
Fire chief John Schilling, who was not present at the meeting, echoed the frustrations later when reached by telephone.
“Frustration doesn’t sum up my feelings on where we are. We were supposed to be in the building a year ago. We’re still not there,” Mr. Schilling said. “It’s taken a heavy toll on the volunteers at the fire department and a real heavy toll on the emergency services.”
The fire, ambulance, and emergency services departments are still operating out of their old buildings on Beach and Water streets. Chief Schilling said money has not been invested in maintaining the buildings since the staff and equipment were meant to be moved into the Emergency Services Facility by now. “Our answering machine doesn’t work but we are not going to buy a new answering machine because we have a phone system in there,” Chief Schilling said. “We are not repairing the leaky roof because they are going to tear the building down . . . It’s dreadful conditions at both facilities, and we have this $7 million building that we just can’t seem to get into. And it’s certainly not for lack of effort from the ESF building committee or chairman Joe Tierney. Decisions and strategies have to be made on a level that’s coming from the town administrator and board of selectmen.”
Chief Schilling said he will be present at the next selectmen’s meeting.
Mr. Tierney did have good news to report: the flagpole finally made its debut at the new ESF site last week.
In other business Tuesday the board discussed amending the town bylaw that allows the sale of beer and wine in restaurants to include one-day beer and wine licenses for nonprofit events.
“I think there has been a growing desire for this type of license among the groups that have their annual events on the waterfront and beyond,” said Mr. Bugbee.
Selectmen agreed that the matter deserves some research but with careful caveats.
“If we allow beer and wine at a wedding or charity event, I wouldn’t have a problem. But it needs to be carefully constructed so there is not abuse,” Mr. Israel said.
West Tisbury, which this spring passed a bylaw allowing beer and wine sales in restaurants, also has a one-day license provision for events.
Mr. Bugbee also reported that state funding came through for the pump-out boat engine.