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Strafford County Chair Now Claims Low Bid Unworkable

After taking heat for picking the $180 million design for the proposed new Strafford County Nursing Home over a $50 million bid, and then saying he never saw the less expensive bid, Commissioner George Maglaras said Wednesday the low bid wasn’tould work.

“The commission picked the firm we thought had a track record of building larger nursing homes and there are other written responses required within the answering of the RFP,” Maglaras told NHJournal.

Republican members of the Strafford County Delegation blasted Maglaras, a Democrat, and the two other Democratic Commissioners this week after learning about the lower bid from EGA Architects. Rep. Cliff Newton said the Commission kept him and other delegates in the dark about the lower-cost bid on the 215-bed proposal.

“Strafford County Commissioners and administration never informed the delegation of the EGA’s lower cost plan. Instead, they chose a much more expensive and institutionalized building plan without exploring different options that would have been acceptable to the entire delegation,” Newton said.

When contacted Tuesday about the EGA bid, Maglaras initially told The Rochester Voice he never saw EGA’s bid. That’s despite the fact the NHJournal found records showing the Commission was presented with all six bids, including EGA’s, on the project in 2022 when they voted to go with Warrenstreet. By Wednesday, Maglaras blamed politics for the kerfuffle, and said he was misunderstood.

“I said that there was never a $40 million proposal put before us,” Maglaras said. “These claims by some of the Republican members are misguided and are inflammatory and political in nature.”

According to Maglaras, the EGA bid quoted the Commission a cost of $350 a square foot to build the new home. But that number was never going to work, he said. EGA cited its work building the Carroll County Nursing Homes 10 years ago in its bid to Strafford. However, the construction company hired by EGA in Carroll told a slightly different story, Maglaras said.

“I brought in Bonnette, Page and Stone who was the contractor that actually built the Carroll County Nursing Home designed by EGA and they told the entire delegation in a public meeting it would cost $600 a square foot to construct a similar facility today and that the (Carroll County) home does not meet present federal design standards,” Maglaras said. “Architects don’t build buildings, construction companies do. You need to compare apples to apples not apples to cherries.

Comparing Maglaras’ math, that means the EGA bid would have cost as much as $83 million at $600 per square foot, instead of the $50 million the company quoted. The Warrentstreet project costs close to $1,300 per square foot.

The Republicans on the delegation have twice blocked the Commission from getting bonds for the $180 million proposal, and the Nursing Home project is currently stalled out. Maglaras wants to see the project get back on track.

“We have offered to meet with all the parties to see if we can’t move the process forward. The offer still stands and we will be reaching out to them,” Maglaras said.

Strafford County Ignored Low Nursing Home Bid

A million here, a million there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money, the saying goes.

Unless it’s taxpayer money. 

Strafford County’s quest for a new nursing home stalled out last year when members of the county legislative delegation balked at the astronomical $170 million proposal pushed by county commissioners. Representatives like Cliff Newton (R-Rochester) blocked the commissioner’s request to take out a massive bond for a 215-bed nursing home proposal complete with a golf course and waterfall.

But now, Newton is flabbergasted to learn commissioners ignored a $50 million bid when they originally opted for a grander vision.

“It boggles my mind they did that,” Newton told NHJournal.

When the commissioners voted unanimously to go with the extravagant bid submitted by architectural firm Warrentstreet in May 2022, it passed over the $49 million bid from EGA Architects. The lower bid was never shared with the delegation, Newton said.

“They did it without notifying the delegation of anything,” Newton said.

Commission Chair George Maglaras denied ever seeing the lower bid, telling The Rochester Voice on Tuesday, “That proposal never came before us.”

However, the EGA bid was presented to the commission at the May 26, 2022 meeting, according to meeting minutes on file. Maglaras did not respond to a request for comment from NHJournal.

The county’s all-Democrat commission has been working for years to put together a winning proposal for a new nursing home. Twice the delegation stopped its plans over cost concerns. Newton fully supports a new nursing home for county residents, but said the expensive plans favored by the commission don’t make sense for taxpayers.

Frustrated by a lack of a new, lower-cost proposal, Newton and others took a trip to Carroll County to tour the nursing home there. Impressed by that facility, put together by EGA, they spoke to company representatives about doing the same for Strafford County. That’s when Newton and other delegation members found out EGA, in fact, submitted the $50 million bid.

“I knew that we were not being told the whole story on the county nursing home project,” Newton said.

Rep. Joe Pitre (R-Farmington) said commissioners wasted time and taxpayer money pursuing the high-cost project. So far, the county has spent close to $2 million developing the upscale Warrentstreet proposal.

“When I spoke with [EGA] they said yes, they could build one, but would have to adjust for inflation to a cost of approximately $64 million, or $15 million more because of the delay,” Pitre said.

Newton and Pitre started digging and found the EGA bid submitted in April 2022, as well as the record on the May 2022 vote.

“Strafford County commissioners and administration never informed the delegation of the EGA’s lower cost plan. Instead, they chose a much more expensive and institutionalized building plan without exploring different options that would have been acceptable to the entire delegation,” Newton said. “As a result of their actions, we have not approved a bond for an extravagant nursing home. We have gone nowhere in two years. We have spent $2 million of taxpayer money with nothing to show for it, and that is just plain wrong.”

Newton believes the commissioners want to build a facility that can compete with the many private nursing homes already in Strafford County. The county home is a service for county residents, and it is supposed to be there for the people, he said.

“Instead, they’re chasing revenue by trying to compete with private nursing homes,” Newton said.