Low bid on school demolition brings relief in Dalton

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DALTON — The low bid to demolish the old Dalton High School will allow the town to tick off two other tasks, as it prepares to turn the grounds into building lots.

As officials hoped, the timing of a bid request near the end of the construction season brought an offer that will enable Dalton not only to pull down the long-vacant school, but ready the site for residential use.

Ritter & Paratore Contracting of Utica, N.Y., bid $1,067,414 to take down the school. It also bid to create new parking at the neighboring senior center and work on utility connections that will foster marketing of six half-acre building lots.

The company's total bid, $1,197,114, was the lowest; the top bid received was more than half a million dollars higher.

"We do not need any more money," Town Manager Kenneth Walto told the Select Board on Monday.

Residents in 2017 authorized the town to borrow $1,282,000 to put toward the demolition work. Combined with $121,890 in cash set aside, Dalton has enough money not only for the demolition, but for two other aspects of the project tentatively included on the bid request — the parking project and utility work.

The 60,000-square-foot former school, which opened in 1926 at First and Field streets and Glennon Avenue, cost $160,000 to build. Adjusted for inflation, that sum would be worth $2.3 million today, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index Inflation Calculator.

Pitches to reuse the building for assisted living or senior or affordable housing came up short. Because last year's borrowing authorization referred only to demolition and related costs, the town has scheduled a special town meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 1 at Nessacus Regional Middle School. Residents will be asked to allow that borrowing to apply also to the parking and utilities work.

Walto said he expects to award a contract within the required 30 days, perhaps making it contingent on approval of the Oct. 1 special town meeting vote.

"We don't want to lose that very favorable price," he said.

Members of the Select Board voted unanimously to schedule the special town meeting.

A second article on that session's agenda will ask residents to appropriate money for capital improvements to help roll out a switch to LED streetlights.

Dalton learned in July it had won a grant of nearly a quarter-million dollars from the state Department of Energy Resources' Green Communities Division to replace existing fixtures. The change will cut the town's largest electric bill by 40 percent.

Walto briefed board members on the choice of General Electric Co. lights that will be installed. He said that while the GE lights are more expensive than others considered, the illumination produced is more focused and will result in less "light trespass" that could annoy nearby residents. Walto also noted that the devices are the only ones considered that are made in the United States. The board expressed confidence in the choice.

LED stands for "light-emitting diode," a technology introduced in the 1960s.

The town stands to save $32,000 a year on what has been an $80,000 streetlights bill.

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


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