Stabilizing the Lachat farmhouse: Bids keep project in limbo

Lachat farmhouse

Bids are confusing for work to be done on the Lachat farmhouse. —Kimberly Donnelly photo

A second bid opening for work to shore up the Lachat farmhouse has proven to be as confusing as the first time around.

Tom Landry, town administrator, said the project first went out over the summer and two contractors bid on it. However, one bid came in at about $10,000 and the other at about $34,000.

Because of the disparity, the architect, Robert Hatch, was asked to clarify the specifications and the bid package was reissued, Mr. Landry said.

Two contractors (one that had bid last time and one new one) again bid, and those proposals were opened last Thursday, Sept. 20. They again were not at all close in their cost estimates: This time, one was about $19,000 and the other was about $54,000.

“Obviously, we’re looking at two contractors with very different business models, or very different ideas of what the work is,” Mr. Landry said.

Earlier this week, Mr. Landry was waiting to hear back from Mr. Hatch to get some further clarification on the two bid proposals before any decision would be made about granting the contract to anyone.

The town is looking to stabilize the historic farmhouse on the Lachat property on Godfrey Road West. The land is co-owned by the town and the Nature Conservancy, but a dual lease agreement entered into last year gives the town control over what is done with the portion of the farm fronting on Godfrey Road — including the buildings — and the conservancy is responsible for land that abuts the Devil’s Den Nature Preserve.

Over the years, the Lachat farmhouse has fallen into disrepair. About a year ago, the Board of Selectmen began discussing the possibility of demolishing the crumbling farmhouse, which used to belong to the late Leon Lachat, who ran one of the last working farms in town there.

A Friends of Lachat group formed at that time to raise money to save the farmhouse.

A committee (the Select Committee for the Oversight of the Lachat Property) was recently formed to come up with a long-range vision and plan for the town’s portion of Lachat.

In the meantime, however, the town — under the supervision of Mr. Landry — agreed to stabilize the house using a portion of the money that was raised by Friends of Lachat.

Mr. Landry said the general project specifications include digging out around the existing foundation and waterproofing; pouring concrete footings in the cellar for additional supports (lally columns) for the first story floor; and some beam work in the basement.

Mr. Landry said the more detailed bid specs ask the contractor to:

• Remove and identify the stepping stones from the walkway that leads up to front of the house, store the stones, and then reinstall them when heavy construction is completed;

• Excavate an outside wall and save the stone steps;

• Remove stones from an existing wall and reuse them to repair the wall; shore up or support existing adjoining walls;

• Rebuild the stone foundation wall to approximate the appearance of the adjoining existing walls;

• Damp-proof the outside walls;

• Shore up the floor joists and beams to allow removal of wood posts;

• Replace 13 wood posts with four-inch metal lally columns resting on concrete footings;

• Replace wood beams where called for in the basement; and

• Replace an existing window in the repaired foundation wall with a new window.

Mr. Landry was uncertain about when the project would be able to start. Foundation work might be tricky as the weather gets colder, but it would not affect some of the interior work, he said.

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