Unexpected asbestos adds another $16,000 to Belmont renovation cost

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PEPPERELL — Well into the conversion of the former Belmont Springs property into the new Water Division headquarters, the discovery of additional asbestos and a roofing issue have caused town engineer Robert E. Lee to ask town meeting voters for another $16,000. This in turn prompted the Finance Committee to discuss the project with him further.

Annual Town Meeting in May approved spending $390,000 to move the Water Division from its cramped Canal Street building into the town-owned Belmont Springs property on Chestnut Street, thus saving considerable renovation money.

Lee credits Water Division employees with going “above and beyond” to perform nearly all the cleanup at Chestnut Street, “which was quite a task.” It was decided to contract out some of the demolition work.

Asbestos was found in areas hidden during the initial cost evaluation, Lee explained in an Oct. 10 letter to the FinCom — such as plaster in the office, glue under rugs, caulking around windows, and on an old burner outside the building.

The asbestos inspection cost of $2,030 and removal cost of $9,500 plus an “indirect” cost of $4,500 for disposal, were questioned by FinCom member Jeanne LeBlanc.

Lee wrote that it was hoped the costs would stay within estimates, but the draft final plans, a gap in the garage area roof (estimated at $15,000) and the need to strengthen the mezzanine area to handle loads (for another $15,000) brought the final cost “dangerously close” to the original appropriation.

The $16,000 for asbestos would come from Water Division free cash, not the tax base, Lee pointed out.

FinCom Chairman Diane Gaspar said she “remembers” rate payers asking for help, which resulted in a low-interest loan from the Enterprise Fund.

Accountant Theresa Walsh said Lee is aware “people have a bad taste (resulting from) Sewer Department (increases).”

LeBlanc asked how much the move to Chestnut Street had saved the town and was told around $500,000.

Board member Shaun Cummings asked “as a rate payer” what could be cut out of the renovation project.

Walsh suggested using $30,000 in DPW free cash and increasing the budget by the $16,000.

Vice Chairman Burke Bero wondered if more money would be sought, saying he is “uncomfortable” with the request.

In a separate conversation, Lee said work done to date includes the removal of huge fiberglass tanks, limited exterior preparation, demolition of the interior, and asbestos removal and disposal.

He said design documents are in the final draft stage and the job has been advertised for bids, due on Nov. 16. The septic system has passed Title V and the DPW board has discussed continued use of the domestic water supply (the existing spring) with those parties that hold the conservation deed restriction.

Work is being done on perimeter fencing and a wireless communication system, Lee noted.

If bids come in under the limit, Lee said, it is hoped to get the general contractor on site in the week after Thanksgiving and hopefully complete the roofing and structural framing before the winter snow.

“We’re trying to cover these increased costs by deleting some work, deferring some, and using what are called add-alternates, or work which will be done only if (the cost) comes in under available funding,” Lee said.