This is a tough one to recap, and I’m not even sure it’s worth it. Representatives from Skanska, Perkins Eastman and Suffolk Construction were on hand to give a presentation as to the reasoning behind a $38 million cost overrun for the Lowell High Project.
Despite a long and technical analysis of the numbers and timeline, there is no mystery as to why the costs have increased. This overage was a direct result of the newly inflated construction market due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We could leave it at that and look for solutions, but last night was not about problem-solving – it was about political cover. Eight of the eleven members of the current council were either not sitting and/or did not support the downtown location. Nevertheless, they must now vote for an amended loan order authorizing the city to borrow an additional $38 Million to complete the project.
The problem with all the table-pounding is that nobody made a credible case that things should have been done differently based on information available at the time. For example, it was argued that an error was made by “gambling” when trying to time the purchase of certain materials, based on market predictions.
The suggestion, apparently, is that this would not have happened with regular SBC meetings or more information provided to the City Council. However, would the SBC or City Council really have overridden the opinion of Suffolk Construction on its prediction for the global price of gypsum products? I have a hard time accepting that as a plausible scenario.
On the other hand, more government transparency on this and pretty much every other issue is a good thing. I’m pleased to see calls for more information. reports, website updating, etc. and am looking forward to seeing more in the future. At a minimum, it would hopefully clear the air of conspiracy theories and suggestions of mismanagement.