Irene delays Lower Pond rehab

Work on the rehabilitation of Lower Pond, initially projected for completion in November 2011, remains on hold, another complication related to the wake of Tropical Storm Irene.

Due to emergency reconstruction of roads, bridges and other public works, contractors bid almost three times higher than expected on the Lower Pond reconstruction, the estimated cost of which had been set at $250,000.

“When Irene hit, we were in the midst of bidding out the work to be performed on the lower pond,” said Dean of Administration Sharron Scott. “Obviously we had very little damage on campus, besides a few trees down, but Central and Southern Vermont received a tremendous amount of damage. With that damage came the need to rebuild. Contractors were able to be hired for extremely high prices often without bidding.”

State and federal emergency funds made it possible for contractors to make much higher profits on work needed to repair the state and town infrastructure to proper functionality.

Unfortunately, when JSC collected all bids following the storm, it found that contractors bid very high. “Some bids were three times more than anticipated,” said Scott.

Scott hopes that construction on Lower Pond will commence this spring, after a new bidding process takes place.

“It is unfortunate that it could not be finished by now,” said Scott. “We are working hard to make sure it is finished for the summer of 2012.”

The pond was drained following determination by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Division of Dam Safety that the dam responsible for containing the water in Lower Pond no longer met state requirements and needed to be fixed.

After the pond was drained in May, the college found that more structural work than had initially been anticipated on the dam and pond was needed. Testers found the soil at the bottom of the pond was unstable, and further work would be needed to prevent water from leaking from the bottom of the pond.

As part of the rehabilitation project, the depth of the pond will be reduced from 13 to seven feet during reconstruction, but the overall size will remain the same.

In hindsight, draining the pond could possibly have prevented a disaster.

“If it had not been drained, serious damage could have been done if the damn did not hold in an event like Irene,” Scott said.

In a Basement Medicine interview last fall, JSC President Barbara Murphy acknowledged that the college had a far cheaper option: simply draining the pond and not restoring it.

“That just didn’t seem like something we wanted to consider,” she said. “It’s got kind of a landmark, iconic status at the college…so the decision to go with a slightly smaller pond and go ahead with the repairs seemed like the right one to do.”