July 20, 2019
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‘Construction inflation’ has blown a hole in Ellsworth’s city budget

Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Prock Marine Co. of Rockland worker Alex Allen pours water on the deck to douse sparks from a girder being welded above him at Ellsworth Harbor Park and Marina. The crane is carrying a metal brace that will go between the girders.

Ellsworth will spend more than double the amount it originally estimated to install a new fuel pump system at its marina this summer.

The reason? “Construction inflation.”

City officials last year expected the installation of diesel tanks and the replacement of gasoline tanks at Harbor Park Marina to cost $150,000, but had to increase their estimate to $336,500 because they couldn’t find a qualified contractor at the lower price, City Manager David Cole said.

“It is not the best bidding environment right now,” Cole said during Monday’s city council meeting. “Lots of contractors are busy, and it’s a specialized kind of work. All the companies that do it are busy, and there is a lot of construction inflation going on out there.”

The harbor and access to the Union River are cornerstones of city officials’ plans to attract more boat traffic and tie in the marina with downtown. Besides installing diesel fuel pumps for the first time, which will increase the number of boats that can refuel at the marina, the city added de-icing machines to the marina’s docks last year to make it a year-round facility by preventing ice from forming in much of the harbor. The city is also planning to expand the park’s walking trail to reach into downtown.

[Ellsworth spent $100K fixing ice damage to its docks. Here’s how it’s trying to prevent more.]

Council members seemed dismayed at the increase Monday, but voted 4-3 to fund the new estimate for the work. Councilor Dale Hamilton said expense increases like this painted councilors into a corner, especially with the council due to vote on a new city government budget by June 30.

“In three months we will be talking about a lot of expenses that we need and don’t need, and we don’t have the luxury to vet this,” Hamilton said. “These are the kinds of things that, when we look at them in isolation, we lose the opportunity to collectively justify.”

For at least the next year, the increased expense also blasts the city’s hopes of turning a profit at the marina, Councilor John Phillips said.

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“It will be an expense item that will give us a chance to enhance our harbor,” he said. “It is a pretty substantial investment for a small amount of fuel sales.”

Under the new plan, the city will pay $214,500 of the $336,500. That’s an increase of $134,500 over last year’s estimate. The Maine Department of Transportation’s portion of the project’s cost increases by about $47,000, to $122,000 from $75,000, Cole said in a memo to the council.

The added $134,500 will come from the city’s Unspent Bond Proceeds account, Cole said.

The job will go out to bid next month with work starting in August or September, Ellsworth Public Works Director Lisa Sekulich said.

 



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