Pittsfield armed with more money as it readies to remove Mill Street Dam

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PITTSFIELD — Work on the Mill Street Dam is now scheduled to start next week, with about $1 million more tacked onto the price tag.

This year, the project cost was estimated at $1.9 million. But the bids came in higher than expected, said Jim McGrath, the city's parks and natural resource program manager. The lowest bid went to SumCo Eco Contracting, whose bid was $2,582,950.

On Tuesday, city councilors accepted a fresh round of grants, now totaling $2.8 million to cover the $3.1 million project. McGrath said construction is set to begin Monday.

The project will remove a deteriorating piece of infrastructure — the Mill Street Dam, also known as the Tel-Electric Dam — improve continuity and ecology along the West Branch of the Housatonic River and serve the city's revitalization mission. City leaders also have said the aging structure harbors illicit activity.

Most of the grants come from the state and federal government, but the city also received an additional $33,000 this month from the Pittsfield Mill Corp., which owns the property where the dam resides.

Over the coming months, contractors will remove the 20-foot-by-40-foot dam, dispose of contaminated sediments trapped blow and reconstruct surrounding banks. McGrath said project engineers had to jump through new hoops regarding trestle footings that cannot be compromised, city utility lines and use of Eversource property over the course of the project.

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Assessing the contents of the trapped sediment also made project planning more difficult, he said.

"Our efforts to reduce the water level didn't work as we had hoped," he said. "And so there was some uncertainty about exactly what the sediment would look like."

Beyond those issues, as well as some additional regulatory hurdles, McGrath said the additional cost stems from bidding the project in the summer, meaning these unique contractors "have loads of work."

Water control was expected to cost $150,000, but the bid came in at $237,000, McGrath said. Similarly, project planners expected disposal of excavated materials to cost $104,000, but the bid came in at $770,000.

"Not many contractors can do this type of specialized work, so right off the bat our pool of qualified vendors was reduced," he said.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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