Owner’s rep named for police building project

The building committee overseeing improvements to Wilton’s police station and town hall should have an owner’s representative on board next month. The Board of Selectmen agreed at its meeting Dec. 17 to have First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice work with town counsel to execute a contract to hire Colliers International to fill that role.

The contract will specify payment not to exceed $40,000 for work through phase one of the project, which will encompass planning into design. The money would come out of the $1.2-million bonding request that was approved at the Annual Town Meeting in May. Although this would be a multi-phase project, “we are not locked into using them forever,” committee co-chair Patti Temple told the board.

With a project in the vicinity of $10 million, if an owner’s representative stays on for the whole project, the cost would be 2% to 3%, facilities manager Chris Burney said.

Colliers was one of four companies that responded to a Request for Qualifications in November. Each response was scored by the Police HQ/Town Hall Campus Building Committee based on relevant experience, qualifications, and team approach. Two companies scored significantly higher than the others and their representatives appeared before the committee at its meeting on Dec. 11.

Colliers, of Madison, Conn., was the most impressive, and the committee voted to recommend retaining it to the selectmen.

“They have extensive municipal experience, including a significant amount dealing with police stations and public safety building projects,” Temple told The Bulletin. The firm’s presentation was very detail oriented, she said, “but more than anything it was their breadth of experience.”

Colliers has experience with more than 200 municipal buildings, according to information submitted to the town. It has worked in a number of towns including Ridgefield, Fairfield, Madison and Newtown.

According to the RFQ, the owner’s representative would be involved in a long list of services, including providing oversight of the design and construction of the project, input on the budget and scheduling, overseeing maintenance of insurance and payroll, keeping an eye on permit requirements, overseeing bid processes, preparing monthly reports, and auditing the project as needed for quality, budget, and scheduling.

“An owner’s rep provides experience that we don’t have, as a town collectively and as individuals,” David Waters, the committee’s other co-chair, told the selectmen. “It’s not just the individual, it’s the firm behind them.”

With regard to the police station, it’s more than just constructing a building. “It’s the security aspects of it, it’s the things you wouldn’t necessarily have in-house to do,” he said.

An owner’s representative, he continued, could provide an unbiased view of the project’s direction in terms of space needs, construction vs. renovation, etc.

“We don’t know what we don’t know and that’s where the owner’s rep is really valuable,” he said. “In the construction phase, they act as the eyes and ears of the town.” Having that support, he added, should mean no surprises and fewer gray areas.

With the selectmen’s approval, Waters said Colliers would begin by looking at space needs and refining the statements of requirements for the police station and town hall. Analysis of the options of expansion vs. a new building would follow. The firm would also advise how police could continue to operate when in the middle of a construction site.

“The investment in this is potentially a significant savings in the future as far as the cost of the project and integrity of the project,” Water said. “The concept of not using somebody with that kind of expertise when you’re building something like a police station is astounding.”

The RFQ and more information on the project may be found at WPDTownHallProject.org.