By Mac Cerullo
---- — AMESBURY – For many months now, the major question hanging over the Lower Millyard reconstruction project has been exactly how much the brownfield cleanup effort would cost.
That question has now been answered.
Mayor Thatcher Kezer announced this week that the W.L. French Excavating Corp. of Billerica has been awarded a $431,358 contract to conduct the remediation of the Lower Millyard. Kezer said the figure represents the maximum cost if all of the dirt is removed from the site, but he said that likely won’t be necessary and the actual cost will likely come in lower than that.
“When we did the bids, we made sure we were very conservative on the numbers, so we’d maximized the amount of soil that we’d need to remove,” Kezer said. “So if we remove all the soil that may need to be removed, that will be the top-end price. But it will probably be lower.”
Throughout the course of the discussions surrounding the Lower Millyard project, one of the major concerns has been whether the city would have enough money to conduct the cleanup. The city had originally hoped to pay for the cleanup using a $400,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant, but the city wasn’t awarded the funds and had to come up with a Plan B.
Since then, Amesbury has been awarded a $200,000 extension to the 2011 MassWorks grant issued to fund the nearly-completed Elm Street reconstruction project, as well as a $100,000 grant from the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission.
Between those funds, and the original $725,000 bond authorization for the Heritage Park project, Kezer said the city has enough money to go forward with the project. If the cleanup does wind up costing the full amount, Kezer said the park itself may need to be scaled back, but the city would still have the option of taking out a loan from the MVPC, and the city could still be awarded additional grant funds in the future too.
“If the cleanup costs cost us the full amount, and we have to dip into the authorization, we may have to change the scope of the park project itself,” Kezer said. “If one segment costs more, we’ll spend less than expected on future portions.”
According to Kezer, the $431,358 figure assumes that W.L. French digs up three feet of contaminated soil across the entire project area. Given that certain areas are less contaminated than others, and that areas slated to become parking lots or concrete pathways won’t need as much work, Kezer said the city could save money by not digging the full three feet in those places.
He also said that the soil close to the river would likely be covered by funds as part of the separate Riverwalk project, that way the lengthy Chapter 91 permitting process for that area wouldn’t interfere with the project’s deadlines.
“Basically the point of all that is we have a whole bunch of options,” Kezer said. “It may be that the actual cost of the cleanup is lower than projected, and if that happens we’ll be all set. If it comes in at the high end, we’ll have to trim back on the park piece of it or get Mass Development to kick in more money or get a loan, which would be paid back when we surplus the development pad that we’re going to sell off.”
Kezer said he expects the contractor will break ground on the project before the end of the year. There will be no road closures as a result of the project, and Kezer hopes the cleanup will be complete by next spring.