PARIS – Engineer Harvey Oest has convinced selectmen to pay him nearly $30,000 more for engineering costs at the new fire station nearing completion on Western Avenue.

Oest told selectmen Monday that considering how many times the station’s design and siting had to be reconsidered in response to residents’ concerns, “there are some firms who would have packed up and gone home, or insisted on an entire renegotiation.”

The South Portland firm had initially agreed to an engineering fee of $177,000.

Over two and a half years, Oest Associates produced three distinct building designs and site plans, and did nearly a dozen complete estimates of various design plans. These were done in response to residents’ objections to a $3.1 million initial price tag for the new station on Western Avenue. The project was later scaled back to $1.1 million after voters rejected the pricier plan.

The number of variations on the design, over four separate town meeting votes, “became very excessive in terms of the changes that were made,” Oest wrote in a letter to Town Manager Steve McAllister.

After residents resoundingly rejected a second vote on station costs, most of the firefighters resigned from the planning committee, Oest said. When a new committee was put together, he said, “We considered entirely new sites and revisited nearly every assumption that had already been made about the building program.”

“We took several detours and did some significant backtracking . . . as we were dealing with individuals with many diverse reasons for being there,” Oest said, referring to some new committee members who opposed both the size and location of the Western Avenue station.

Regardless of the extra work, Oest said, “I am proud of how our folks patiently stuck with it and treated the citizens with respect and listened to everyone’s opinions. During the whole time, we knew what the firemen needed as well as what they wanted, and knew we had to stay largely faithful to that even if they weren’t in the room, yet still consider and incorporate many of the ideas and demands of the new group without gutting the project.”

Even now, while serving as construction manager for the project, Oest said his firm is doing its best to respond to requests by Fire Chief Bradley Frost and others while still staying within budget.

Frost agreed Oest and his associates worked hard, and Selectman Bruce Hanson said the request for extra funds is “probably well justified.”

Around four to six weeks of work remains on the station before completion.

Selectman William Merrill asked McAllister if he had reviewed details of Oest’s breakdown of extra hours, and McAllister said he had not. Merrill said it was his understanding that some extra work, such as analyzing the Paris Manufacturing building site, was included in the $177,000 engineering budget.

“Not that Harvey is double dipping, but I’d like to look at this some more,” Merrill said.

Selectmen agreed to pay Oest an extra $29,417.65 out of the estimated $33,000 left in the project’s contingency account, but to withhold payment until a complete review of the station project has been completed.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.