Selectmen discussed a bid from a local contractor to do work on the Cole Block entrance pictured here. The town has been looking for bids on the project for nearly two years. Bethel Citizen photo by Samuel Wheeler

BETHEL — Selectmen unanimously approved opening the Bethel Skate Park with signage at Mondays meeting.

Select woman Lori T. Swain noted she saw many people using the park throughout the week.

Another resident said she saw groups of people not abiding to the six-foot social distancing rules.

Swain said she thought people would use the skate park even if the town attempted to keep it closed.

The board also voted to keep the basketball court, Davis Park playground and Angevine Parks closed until further notice.

Nancy Annis,  who maintains Angevine park, said having public restrooms available, and a dock in the pond could both increase the risk of COVID-19 spreading.

”You have to think about not all kids washing their hands. I also think having the docks out is a problem because that’s where many of the kids like to play,” Annis said.

“It’s ultimately going to be up to parents to make sure their kids are safe,” Annis added.

Selectman Pete Southam wondered how state parks were handling their pub like restrooms as part of their re-opening process.

Annis said that state parks are allowing “limited access” to their public bathrooms.

“Angevine Park is honestly questionable at the moment,” Annis said.

Southam said he did not “totally agree” with keeping Angevine Park closed, but thought keeping the playground and courts closed made sense.

“For the playground, you’re going to have kids all over surfaces, like swings and slides, that’s a guarantee. The basketball court is very similar, everyone is going to be touching the same ball,” Southam said.

Selectwoman Michele Varuolo Cole wondered if selectmen had an exact date in mind for when the other three parks might open.

Resident Jessie Perkins suggested keeping the subject on the agenda for each upcoming meeting for the board to revisit.

In other news, selectmen discussed construction bids for the Cole Block entrance,  and so far, have received one bid from Tyler Concrete, Foundations and Excavation.

The bricks currently in place will be removed and the existing steps will be broken apart.

The town had been searching for bids for two years.

The total cost of the project is $76,856.

Scope of work includes building a six by 50 foot foundation for frost protection,  a six by 23 foot entrance, a ramp and rails.

There will be two steps built, 11 feet in width and raising onto a six by 11 foot slab “and then one step raising to deck at the main entrance.”

Radiant heat will be installed by Community Energy.

Owner Earl Tyler noted that the wires out by the front of the town office could make parts of demolition challenging.

The town has $60,616 in the Cole Block capital improvement program (CIP). The CIP does not include the additional $40,000 the town has in the budget for 2021, according to Town Manager Loretta Powers.

Cole asked what would happen if the $40,000 did not pass at the town meeting (scheduled for July 15).

Town Manager Loretta Powers said the town has a little more than $6,000 in their budget Cole Block maintenance.

“I’m not sure we’re ready to vote,” Cole said.

She cited that the town does not currently have enough money budgeted to cover the total cost of the project.

“If we don’t accept a bid soon we’re going to be out another year,” Southam said. “I’m not sure how much longer the temporary stairs are going to last, also.”

Cole agreed that the project needed to be done, but that the town “is going to spend money for a total bid that they don’t have right now.”

She wondered if Tyler could complete part of the project and then stop work until the town has appropriated the total amount of money.

Powers said she thought it would be unlikely that the $40,000 article would be shot down by residents at the town meeting. The town has received many complaints about the entrance the last couple years.

If residents approve the $40,000, the town would have enough money to do the entire project.

Southam said the town should accept the bid with the stipulation that work cannot be started until after the $40,000 has been approved at the town meeting.

Cole suggested going back to the bidder and explaining to him that they only have a little more than $66,000 currently to do the project right now. She said the town could ask Tyler’s opinion on how much work he could do with the current money the town has and also mention that more money could be raised if voters approve the article.

“I’m not sure we want to go with any kind of incompletion at this point,” Southam said. “I’m not sure that’s how the contractor is planning on doing the work.”

Southam also said that they could ask Tyler about doing the project for less money or request that the project be added to his “schedule” of work for later on.

Swain thought that the stipulation of waiting to do work until after the town meeting was the right way to go.

Southam said it would be nice to communicate  with the contractor prior to the town meeting, so that they can make sure to get on his schedule.

“History has shown we haven’t had a problem in the past, but all of us selectmen will be on the hook for the difference in the money if the town does not vote the money through,” Cole said.

Powers said that if they were to delay the job, the price could possibly increase and the builders schedule might be too full also.

Selectmen voted 3-1 in favor of accepting the bid from Tyler, with Cole opposed. An amendment to the motion, which was waiting until money is approved by the town to begin construction on Cole Block, was also approved 3-1, with Cole opposed.

Tyler built the steps and ramp at the former KeyBank building and did work on the Brooks Brothers entrance last summer.



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