Hooksett faces $250K price tag for bridge work
TRAVIS R. MORIN
Union Leader Correspondent
June 22. 2018 11:32PM
The mismatched north section of the new Lilac Bridge in Hooksett launched the now infamous $250,000 change order. (Union Leader file photo)
HOOKSETT — The Hooksett Town Council will meet again on June 27 with representatives from Laconia-based engineering company Dubois & King to discuss the fate of an unexpected $250,000 bill the town has incurred from the Lilac Pedestrian Bridge reconstruction project — a bill that the town’s administrator says was wrongfully charged.
The $250,000 bill stems from a 2017 request from town officials to halt work on the project when they noticed that several of the bridge’s new segments did not match the others.
Town Administrator Dr. Dean E. Shankle Jr. stated that he was not initially informed that the work stoppage would cost the town more than the $3.3 million that was already set aside for the project.
“When we noticed it, we asked if they can work on the other side of the bridge without it costing anything until we figure this out, and they said no problem,” Shankle said. “All of a sudden, even though they weren’t done with work on the other side, they came up with this $250,000 change order because we made them stop. Which, had they told me that in the meeting, I never would have done it.”
Shankle states that the change order is invalid because he never signed the form certifying its approval. However, the order was signed by representatives from Dubois & King and the town’s engineer.
“On the piece of paper for a change order, there’s room for three names: the builder, the engineer, and me, the town administrator. The fact that I didn’t sign the order should have been a clear indication that I was not ready to go forward,” Shankle said.
Darren Benoit, vice president and transportation division director for Dubois & King, says the change order became binding because the town failed to approve the change order within 30 days after first receiving it.
“Once we submit it to the town, the town has 30 days to appeal that decision,” Benoit said at a June 13 town meeting. “When it wasn’t appealed during that timeframe, the contract makes it part of the contract.”
Benoit went on to say that the change order was the result of multiple negotiations with several town officials, including former town engineer Jim Dunson.
“This wasn’t done in a vacuum. When I submitted that change order it was at the direction of Jim Dunson. There was a meeting between the town administrator, Jim Dunson, and your attorney. And I was contacted after that and told to submit it.”
For his part, Shankle states he spent that 30-day period planning for how he would handle the $250,000 shortfall with the Town Council.
“We were trying to figure out what we could do so we had something to bring to the council. Even I can’t authorize a $250,000 change order on my own. If we’re going to ask for a quarter of a million dollars, we need to have information from them,” Shankle said.
The June 27 Town Council meeting will start at 6 p.m. at town hall and will be open to the public.
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