HARWICH — It has not been an easy process getting paint on the historic Brooks Free Library building.
The town has been working for a couple of years on a plan to restore the face of the buildings that house the library, a bank building, built in 1855 and the Brooks building, built in 1880.
The painting plan has drawn a lot of review and discussion on how to move forward and whether or not to restore the white building to its historically accurate colors – brown, gray off-white and red brick.
The project faces another delay with recently opened bid prices well over what town meeting appropriated for the project. The lowest of four bids was $636,800, while town meeting approved $540,000, which included $50,000 for McGinley Kalsow, Associates, the architectural firm that did the building assessment and was also chosen to do design specifications and provide project oversight of the work.
The town has $490,000 available for the restoration project, Town Administrator Christopher Clark said. The lowest bid came was $143,200 over budget. The low bidder was Campbell Construction Group, followed by Eastward Companies at $642,590, APC Development at $730,255 and Kronenberger & Sons Restoration, Inc. at $776,000.
“It's not unusual that an architectural firm is off on their estimate,” Clark said. “We're trying to get the work done in the prime-time season and it may have had a cost impact. It's subject to temperature elements and it can't be too cold at night.”
The project calls for stripping the paint completely off the building, inspecting the condition of the wood, using South American mahogany for any wood replacement matched to the original profile, and then painting the building.
The major costs were identified as chemical stripping and removal of the paint, which likely would require lead paint management procedures, the repairs and selective replacement of clapboard and trim. The assessment determined the maintenance approach of scraping and applying additional layers of paint would not solve inherent problems with the structure.
The project involves working on the bank building and Brooks building but not the new portion of the library built in 1998. Clark told selectmen Monday night he has met with the library trustees and they have a strong desire to get the work done. While the high bid prevents doing the entire project, he said, they are looking at breaking it up, seeking additional bids with options, potentially for the back and west side of the building.
The project was broken up before and portions taken out. The initial assessment in the report conducted by McGinley Kalsow provided a price tag of $800,000 for all the work identified as necessary. The initial article sought $670,000. It was recommended the project be broken into two phases, including $279,000 for the Main Street side and $300,000 for the work on the west and south sides of the building.
Ultimately town meeting approved $540,000 in Community Preservation Act funding with streetscape work along Main Street removed from the project.
“It's been a cumbersome process that continues to cumber,” Clark told The Chronicle. “We get estimates and aspects of the project get chopped up and the reliability of numbers get chopped up and it makes it difficult.”
Clark said there are questions about wood rot and the cost associated with replacement. He said the architects estimated 20 percent of the wood may need replacement. With such uncertainties in a project, Clark said, contractors usually bid on the higher side.
“It's not good news,” he said, adding officials can come back with an additional article to fund the other sections at a later date.
Selectman Peter Hughes said when the funds were voted it was expected the three sides would get done. “Is it really the project they voted for and do they want to spent three-quarters of a million dollars?” Hughes said. “There's something wrong here. I'm just cautioning you.”
No additional decisions were made by selectmen Monday.