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The turf field project at Cheshire High School took another step forward this week, as the Turf Committee began the process of soliciting bids to design the project.
The Request For Proposal was posted online in the last week and companies have until Feb. 14 to respond. The bids are not for the actual construction of the field, rather, they are to select a firm that would design the project. Also requested from bidders is a design for the track replacement project, which was voted down by residents last November at referendum. There are certain "economies" of scale by tying the projects together, explained Turf Committee Chairman Bob Behrer, but it might not be feasible since the money for the track project was shot down.
"There are some economies to be had by doing them both at once, this is not a unique scenario," Behrer explained. "The companies that will respond will be well qualified to design both, or either or. These numbers could be under the (referendum threshold). It's all about dollars and cents."
It is spelled out in the bid documents that the turf project will be funded, in part, through a $525,000 state grant, that was accepted by the Town Council at the end of last year. The grant will be coupled with private donations, which Behrer said totals more than $240,000 at this point. The track project, however, would come from Town funds. Voters rejected the funding last November, but design money was already approved in the budget for the project. The firm selected will design the plans and, finally, there will be a target goal, Behrer explained. Whether the $765,000 they have secured now will be enough will be determined in less than a month.
"We are at the low end right now. We could need another $30,000 to $50,000, but that is certainly possible," he said. "We have to wait and see what the numbers are."
The expected timeline spelled out in the RFP documents call for the bids to be opened on Feb. 14, with design of the project completed by April 15. Construction documents and final design plans would be due on June 17 and construction on the field would begin on July 18. Behrer said fields can be installed in days and, if things move quickly, work could start as soon as school is out for the summer, sometime in mid-to late June.
"These dates could be moved up," Behrer said. "We still need to work with the permitting groups in Town and we'll have to be back to the Town Council once we get more work done.
The Turf Committee has been melded with members of the Public Building Commission as the group continues to work through the projects. The PBC offers expert opinion and will be able to make an informed decision based on the bids received. The PBC did similar work last year, when the group worked on the pool cover replacement project over the summer.
"We won't know the exact construction numbers until we do this work," Behrer explained. "I feel very confident. It's just a matter of getting everything in place to make sure it gets done this summer."
Behrer admits that the current funds in the group's coffers are at the low end of turf field installation estimates, but doesn't feel the additional fundraising would be a major hurdle. He expected "more cooperation" from interested parties in the Town and, once a target number is established, Behrer said they would raise the balance.
"I feel confident we can get it done," he said. "We'll have the target and will have some more time to collect donations."
But, what if the donations aren't there, and the project has to be delayed since it cannot be installed during the school year?
"It would be a huge disappointment. We have put a huge amount of energy into this project," Behrer admitted. "There are hundreds of volunteers and hours that got us this far. We need to continue this effort and we're more than willing to do it."
The only thing that would hold the group back, Behrer said, would be if "people dragged their feet" during the process.
"We'll be moving our part along, but I don't want a decision on the track to hold up the field," he said. "People are waiting to see if this is real, but they should feel confident that this is reality."