With lowest bid of $61,185, Dalton goes with Hill-Engineers for old high school building demolition

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DALTON — With the selection of an engineering firm to plan the demolition process, a long-running effort to take down the old Dalton High School building is inching toward completion.

The town received two responses recently to its bid for an engineer, both from Western Massachusetts firms.

Tighe & Bond, of Westfield, and Hill-Engineers, Architects, Planners Inc. of Dalton and Adams, responded to the bid shortly before the Nov. 3 deadline.

State law requires it be awarded to the lowest qualified bidder — Hill-Engineers, in this case.

Town Manager Kenneth Walto awarded the contract to Hill-Engineers on Nov. 22.

The bid sought an engineering firm to make a plan for demolition of the building, including the removal of hazardous materials. The town has to comply with highly regulated standards for the project, especially in regards to environmental protection, Walto said.

Formerly a bustling middle school, the site has long been plagued by dangerous chemicals, roof drain failures, flash flooding and rising maintenance costs.

Town residents voted overwhelmingly in May to demolish the site of the old school, which has been vacant for about 15 years. The property will be sold for housing redevelopment.

Besides planning the demolition, Hill-Engineers will also design and permit a subdivision for homes on the site, in line with the town's vote.

Tighe & Bond estimated a cost of $63,900 for all services it would provide; Hill-Engineers estimated $61,185.

"It was a bid, so there's not much discretion," Walto said. "It's the low bidder who gets the job, if they are qualified."

A separate warrant article at the town meeting authorized borrowing of up to $1.28 million to finance the demolition, which was soon confirmed by debt exclusion vote.

About $121,800 in previously allocated revenue has also been put toward paying for the project.

"They wanted to resolve the issue once and for all," Walto said of the town's decision to appropriate funding for the project.

Studies years ago revealed that the building site contained asbestos — naturally occurring, hazardous minerals that are resistant to heat and corrosion.

"The engineer's job is to tell us what's there, and how to safely get rid of it," Walto said. "They're going to tell us how to demolish the building."

Ideally, a contractor will demolish the building this summer.

One of the first tasks Walto remembers taking on as town manager involved an effort to make the old Dalton High School site an assisted living facility.

Over the years, other projects have also been proposed for the site, including affordable housing.

They were variously abandoned by the developer, voted down by residents or failed to obtain funding.

But Walto is optimistic about this plan.

"It's funded," he said. "There's consensus. It's just a matter of time, the process time."

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@berkshireeagle.com, at @BE_pleboeuf on Twitter and 413-496-6247.


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