Firm tapped for Wahconah project; new school to open fall 2021

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DALTON — The firm hired to build a new Wahconah Regional High School is promising to wrap up work in time for students to enroll in two years.

That admittedly tight timetable led the Central Berkshire Regional School District to select Barr & Barr as its construction manager, a role akin to general contractor, over four other firms seeking the work.

A "construction manager at risk," as the role is formally called, requires a firm to deliver a project at an agreed-upon maximum price.

Construction managers typically receive, as compensation, a percentage of the project cost. District officials did not respond Wednesday to requests for information on what that percentage is for Barr & Barr.

Superintendent Laurie Casna said this week Barr & Barr was picked in part because it agreed to the district's timetable.

"This is an important step to keep the project on time, which is critical given the relatively tight delivery of the new school," Casna said in a statement Tuesday.

The other firms interviewed were Consigli; Fontaine Brothers; a joint venture between Commodore Builders and O&G Industries Inc.; and the Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., Casna said.

Barr & Barr was selected after it and the others provided proposals and were interviewed in a process that took two months. The selection was "qualification based," the district says, and followed guidelines from the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which will provide $31.38 million for the project.

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The cost to the district's seven towns will be $41.33 million.

According to Casna's office, Barr & Barr has overseen $280 million worth of projects in Berkshire County in the last 18 years. The firm is working on a science center project at Williams College.

Casna said that along with promising to deliver a finished school for the 2021-2022 academic year, Barr & Barr was favored by a district selection panel because of its relationships with area subcontractors.

"Their experience in bringing projects in on-time and under budget is unsurpassed in the Berkshires for projects of this magnitude," Casna said in the statement.

"We look forward to making this a success for the Central Berkshire Regional School District and, most importantly, the faculty, students and parents," the company said in remarks distributed by the district.

Barr & Barr will make use of a locally based construction superintendent, Casna said.

The decision to replace the nearly 60-year-old regional high school passed by 88 votes, 1,785-1,697, in voting April 6 in the member towns of Becket, Cummington, Dalton, Hinsdale, Peru, Washington and Windsor.

The proposal failed in four of the seven towns— Cummington, Hinsdale, Peru and Windsor.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.


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