The Steamship Authority board of governors has approved two change orders totaling more than $1.28 million for the waterside terminal reconstruction project in Woods Hole.
Board members have been vocal about the number of changes to the contract with Jay Cashman, Inc., which to date has amounted to $9,148,000 from 143 change orders associated with the marine contract.
The contract was for $43,143,280.
“When does it ever stop?” board member James Malkin asked at the board’s April 20 meeting. “We’re between the devil and the deep blue sea.”
Board member Moira Tierney, who has been critical of the change orders in the past and voted against them, said she understands that the project is large.
“I don’t know that the process is really providing us the level of scrutiny that we should have, on this contract, with the huge cost overruns,” she said.
The two change orders involve the discovery of rocks and boulders that are obstructing the installation of dock pilings.
Dino Fiscaletti, a consultant on the project, said the underwater issues causing the change orders arose from the challenging Woods Hole seafloor topography.
“These are the kinds of situations the Steamship Authority has been dealing with for the past four years,” Mr. Fiscaletti said. “We’re trying to drill through a boulder field.”
When asked by the board if there was an alternative, he said a third-party contractor could be hired to drill, but he considered the option to have more unknowns than the solution that was settled upon to install a gravity structure.
“The cost is similar, but there are fewer unknowns this way,” he said.
The change orders were approved 4 to 1 and 3 to 2. Ms. Tierney voted against both while Ms. Wilson, the Falmouth board representative, dissented on the larger of the two.
“It is emblematic of the engineering difficulties we keep running into, despite knowing this area was problematic,” she said.
Mr. Fiscaletti said there was no way to predict.
“We did borings near the site, and it went down fine,” he said.
She asked if paying the change order could be deferred, which would cause a work stoppage. But Authority general manager Robert B. Davis said it is important to complete the work before summer, when the third ferry slip will be needed.
Ms. Tierney asked if the $700,000 in project credits owed by the contractor could be used to offset the most-recent change orders. Mr. Davis said he is working with the contractor to finalize the credits, also noting that the project is still under budget. He said the change orders are being reviewed, adjusted and vetted before they are brought to the board for approval.
Board member Robert Jones said the board does not have a choice but to approve the increases, based on the nature of the contract.
“I don’t see any getting out of it,” he said.