LEWISTON — The Finance Committee suspended a rule in order to allow a lone bidder to pursue a contract for improvements to Simard-Payne Memorial Park, provided that they lower the cost.

The bid, submitted by J. Pratt Construction of Hebron, was initially rejected by the Finance Committee in September, citing a rule requiring more than one bidder before a contract can be awarded.

Monday night’s vote was whether to suspend the rule in order to allow the Planning Board to work with J. Pratt Construction on what they referred to as “value engineering.”

Although several contractors were approached with the project, Director of Budget and Purchasing Norman Beauparlant said there wasn’t enough interest in the project for many general contractors to get involved, leaving Pratt with the stand alone bid.

Lewiston received a $900,000 federal grant to improve the park area, with $180,000 paying for a study. After spending $111,000 for bridge improvements and moving a utility pole, the city was left with $602,000 for what it termed the Gateway Park Project.

Richardson and Associates Landscape Architects, who were hired for the initial survey, estimated a cost of $530,000 for the Gateway Park, far below the Pratt bid of $583, 815.

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Finance Committee Chairman Stavros Mendros pointed out that in a conversation he had with Mayor Macdonald, the project was intended to elicit a “wow factor” for the city.

“I don’t want to make it less,” Mendros said, referring to suggestions to detract from the original plans.

Mendros said that the city currently has funding for the Pratt Construction plan, and any delays or sending the project out to rebid may either degrade the plan or drive up costs in the long run.

Michael Marcotte pointed to the ten percent discrepancy between the Richardson estimate and Pratt Construction’s bid. He said it appeared to be a built-in contingency and that it “didn’t seem fully honest.”

Marcotte sparred briefly toward the end of the discussion as to the interpretation of suspending the committee rule.

Mendros responded, “I just interpreted it, as the Chair.”

The vote passed unanimously to send the bid back to the Planning Board to further discuss the “value engineering” with J. Pratt Construction.

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