By Hiroko Sato

MediaNews

GROTON -- Town officials are breathing a collective sigh of relief after construction bids for the new Center Fire Station came in close to the projected cost of $6 million.

"I'm impressed that we were able to put together the article for the Town Meeting that accurately predicted where the final result (of the bid) was going to be," said selectmen Chairman Stuart Schulman about the fire-station construction project approved at Town Meeting in April.

"Members of the (Center Fire Station Building) Committee were pleased with the bid outcomes, especially the fact that more than one bidder hit the projected budget number, and that so many bids were close to the projection," said Selectman Jack Petropoulos, who formerly served as chairman of the committee.

The town opened the 11 bids submitted for the construction of the 18,500-square-foot fire station on Friday. They ranged between $5.94 million and $7.73 million, with the lowest coming from TLT Construction Corp. of Wakefield, followed by three other offers between $6.1 million and $6.3 million.

The lowest bidder normally receives the contract. However, the project manager will review the past performances and references of the four lowest bidders and report the result to town officials early next month, according to Petropoulos.

The Center Fire Station Building Committee is expected to meet Jan. 4 to review the project-manager's evaluation before making its final recommendation to selectmen Jan. 7. Architectural Consulting Group of New Bedford was hired as project manager for the fire-station project out of about a dozen companies that the committee interviewed over the summer.

Once cost is determined, selectmen will seek residents' approval for borrowing money to pay for the project at Special Town Meeting scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 26. The town will be able to pay for the bonds from the operational budget and the project will not cause a property-tax limit override, selectmen have said.

Selectmen have pitched the fire-station construction to Town Meeting as a $7.6 million project, including the $350,000 land acquisition from Lawrence Homestead as well as the cost of project-manager service. The building committee had anticipated the winning bid to come in at between $5.9 million and $6.1 million, according to Petropoulos.

Schulman said subcontract bids -- which were opened one week earlier than the general-contract bids -- also came within projected price ranges. The applicants for the general contract saw the subcontract-bid results and noted which ones they intend to use when submitting their offers, Schulman said. The general contract covers the cost of subcontracts, according to Town Clerk Michael Bouchard, who serves on the Center Fire Station Building Committee.

Schulman said he credits Town Manager Mark Haddad for the accurate projection of the bidding prices. Haddad was out of the office Wednesday and was not available for comment.