RUMFORD — Selectmen have voted unanimously to authorize the town manager to sign a contract for a new clerk of the works for the major downtown reconstruction project, after the previous one dropped out because of concerns about the coronoavirus.

Gary Violette, of Norridgewock, took the job of overseeing the public works project for The Island business district two years ago, ensuring the quality of materials and workmanship are in accordance with the design information.

He announced he is not returning, Town Manager Stacy Carter told selectmen at their April 16 meeting via Zoom.

Violette had expressed concerns about the pandemic at a meeting earlier this month.

“Gary is not coming back due to the coronavirus,” Carter said. “If the restrictions lesson and the fear of him being compromised goes away, then he’ll come back.” But with the current conditions and the governor’s stay-at-home order, “he’s not going to come back and provide that service.”

Carter said representatives from CES Engineering of Brewer, the firm hired for the job, said they could provide that service for $94,539 for the duration of the project, which could end in August.

Violette was paid hourly. His fee would have been about $84,000 for this year.

Carter suggested if Violette returns, they could revert back to his contract, which would be less money.

“Why would we change midstream if we’re going to hire someone?” Selectman Mark Belanger asked. “Why would we entertain having Violette back at all? He’s breaking his agreement with us.”

Carter said one consideration would be Violette’s knowledge of the project.

“I believe it would be better to have someone with continuity,” he said.

However, Selectman Frank DiConzo disagreed. “If the new guy is efficient enough, if CES thinks he’s good enough … then he should stay on.”

Selectman Peter Chase agreed, saying if Violette did decide to return after a couple months, there would be gap in his knowledge.

“I like Gary’s experience, but if we get somebody started with the way things are going this year, I think we should stay with that person through the end of the project,” Chase said.

The board voted 5-0 to authorize Carter to sign with CES Engineering for a clerk of the works for the remainder of the project.

In a related matter, Carter said Sargent Corp. of Old Town, the contractor, will try to get the Bridge Street work out of the way as soon as possible because of the traffic there.

“They have plans of getting the sidewalks done in mid-May. Hopefully that can be done prior to businesses opening back up so they’re not affecting them,” he said.

Work to replace water and sewer lines, add some sidewalks and make other improvements in the downtown business district began in July 2018 at an estimated $5 million. Since then, the town hired CES Engineers for $73,440 to replace Mainland Development of Livermore Falls.

Last year, then interim Town Manager Scott Cole said there was not enough specificity in the design, which left Sargent Corp. to deal with unexpected structures in the ground such as excess rock and ledge, and vaults that were extensions of basements that protruded under sidewalks.

Sargent postponed work last summer while waiting for Rumford voters to pass a $2.9 million bond to cover cost overruns.

The project is 75% complete, and the last estimate for the total cost was $8.6 million by Cole last year.

Workers from Sargent Corp. of Old Town replace water and sewer lines at Congress and Bridge streets in Rumford on Thursday. The multimillion-dollar project on The Island business district began two years ago and is expected to be finished in August. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times

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