The possibility of a referendum for installation of synthetic turf at continues to linger.
Bids for the project came in a bit higher than expected Thursday, with the lowest bid belonging to Pro Grass, LLC, at $918,000 and two of the seven bidders coming in at over $1 million, but officials are confident that they will be able to negotiate with qualified candidates and still believe that the project could get underway in August.
“We are looking at this from a couple perspectives right now. The seven bids are a positive sign and make the project a competitive one, so these numbers aren’t final,” said Southington Town Council Chairman John Dobbins. “These bids are a starting point and it will allow town staff to negotiate, so we could still see a qualified candidate lower their price toward the range we expected.”
In presenting the initial recommendation to install turf at the high school to the council earlier this year, Turf Committee Chairman Michael DeFeo approached several vendors . After contingency and with bonding, the cost of the project was estimated to be as high as $960,000.
But when bidding closed Thursday, Garry Brumback said the request for proposals came back with the lowest bidders about $30,000 higher than anticipated.
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Pro Grass, a Pennsylvania-based company considered to be one of the better companies in the business, had the lowest bid followed by Milton C. Beebe & Sons, Inc., of Storrs at $950,000 and R.A.D. Sports of Rockland, Mass., at $952,000.
The highest bids were Shaw Sportexe at $1.04 million and Applied Landscape Technologies of New Jersey at $1.2 million.
For a complete list of bidders and their proposals, see the PDF above or .
“These proposals are all without the benefit of background checks and references at this point,” Brumback said Thursday afternoon. “There’s still a lot of work to be done before we have a final number or recommendation. The council is solid in their support of the project, but we can assure the public that this is a decision no one is taking lightly.”
There for the project as nearly 60 people spoke at a public hearing in May, all in favor of installing turf, but talks of wanting a referendum have come up more prominently in recent weeks.
During a discussion at the Southington Planning and Zoning Commission meeting last week, an 8-24 referral passed 5-2 after that they believed the process should not have reached the commission. Both said the supported turf but believed it should have gone to referendum.
Dobbins, along with council members Cheryl Lounsbury and John Barry said Thursday that it’s still early in the process, but the primary goal remains focused on making sure the town receives a quality product. They were hopeful it wouldn’t have to go to referendum, but said they will follow town charter and are not opposed to it if it means selecting the best candidate pushes the total cost over $1 million.
“The numbers are so close to $1 million, it’s hard to tell how it will play out,” Barry said. “We need to do this right and we need to have a reserve.”
Brumback said talk right now is only speculation, but the town will move forward with plans to fund the project using cash . If the qualified bidder comes in under $1 million after contingency and the council approves the recommendation, work would begin in August with an estimated completion date of Oct. 24, a date submitted by all seven companies.
Should there be a need for a referendum, the work would likely be delayed by about nine months and would be completed in summer 2013, provided voters pass the referendum in November, Brumback said.
“Right now, we are not focused on whether there will be a referendum or not,” Dobbins said. “We need to go over all the materials and make the best decision for the town and this project. We will not compromise quality on this and see additional costs later on. If it goes over $1 million, it will go to referendum.”
“The bids were a bit high, but they were all in the neighborhood of what we expected. These are not final, though. There’s still a lot of work to be done before we see where they end up.”
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