BANGOR, Maine — Neighbors expected noise from the renovation of the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building.
Then came the late-night jackhammer incident.
“Noise was pretty much tolerated, because you have a certain amount of noise with any construction project, but then the jackhammering incident really changed things,” said Bill Boothe, project coordinator for the $40,536,118 federal building and courthouse construction project, which is expected to last three years.
On at least one night the week before project officials met with city representatives and concerned neighbors in the offices of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins inside the federal building on Harlow Street, a worker used a jackhammer as part of the repair work on the rear parking deck around 2 a.m.
“Some nights it sounds like they’re emptying Dumpsters or bouncing them up and down. That’s been what it’s like. Other nights, there’s the beeping of trucks backing up,” said the Rev. Gerald Oleson, a resident of Court Street. “Then there was a rogue jackhammer dude out there for 20 minutes or so. It was just horrendous.
“Since their construction schedule said work was going to be going on from 5:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m., we asked to meet with officials.”
Monday evening’s meeting at Bangor City Hall’s council chambers was a follow-up between Bangor city councilors, city officials, project representatives and concerned neighbors.
Overall, there appeared to be satisfaction with both the response and communication shown by contractor Consigli Construction of Portland and U.S. General Services Administration representatives.
“The response has been very positive and they’ve done what they could do for us and I’ve been thrilled,” said Oleson.
“I think the mitigation efforts we’ve made so far are working. We’ve heard that from a number of citizens,” said Bob Zarnetske, New England regional administrator for the GSA. “And we’re committed to continuing those efforts as well as dialogue with community members.”
Also present at Monday’s meeting was Patrick Sclafani, public affairs officer for GSA’s New England region, and Gianne Conard, GSA regional recovery executive and regional chief architect.
“This was a great opportunity, even under the circumstances of being provoked by a certain incident, and it brought us together to help everyone feel better about this project going on in their community,” said Sclafani. “The lines of communication are established and wide open. We have one more year left on this project and I think it’s only going to go smoother the rest of the way.”
“We want people to know they can pick up the phone and talk to members of the GSA and we’re going to deal with it,” Zarnetske said.
Franklin Place resident and president of the residents’ association John Collins said he was impressed by how his concerns were addressed by work crew officials early on.
“My wife and I were eating supper and up comes this big light blinding us. I went over and talked to one of the bosses and told him what happened and he said he could shield the lights, and the next night they did it and that took care of the problem.”
Sclafani explained to those at the meeting that some types of work had to be done overnight for public health, security and safety reasons at a federal facility.
The nature of the work — some of which involves large amounts of dust and debris, and the use of heavy equipment — and the presence of workers at the federal building, court cases being held during regular workday hours and concerns about potentially uncontrolled access to federal offices and personal information make night construction necessary.
Franklin Place resident Janet Kolkebeck asked project officials why the work schedule couldn’t be extended so overnight work wouldn’t be necessary.
It was explained that delays would increase the cost of the project.
Zarnetske said he wants people to know that the GSA cares about how it affects local communities.
“We believe we’re members of the community,” Zarnetske said. “We want to be active and engaged members of the community and we want to try and resolve problems, especially if we’re the source of those problems.”