State may give more money to Miller-Driscoll renovation

The Miller-Driscoll Building Committee got some good financial news at its meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 19. Randal Luther, of the architectural firm Tai Soo Kim, told members the town will likely receive more money from the state for the Miller-Driscoll renovation project than originally anticipated.
When the referendum was presented at the Special Town Meeting last September, voters were told the $50-million price tag would be offset by $6.128 million in a state reimbursement. Wednesday evening Luther said the reimbursement figure likely would fall between a minimum of $6,870,566 and a maximum of $7,434,580, resulting in additional savings to the town of $742,566 to $1,306,580.
He explained the ultimate amount will be figured by multiplying eligible costs by the adjusted state reimbursement rate, which is 18.06% for Wilton. Those rates vary around the state and are based on a town’s wealth.
“You guys are about as low as you can get,” Luther told the committee members.
Working against Wilton is the fact Miller-Driscoll is larger than the space standards the state allows based on enrollment. The enrollment projection submitted to the state for Miller-Driscoll is 860 students. The state allows for 116 square feet per student. Therefore, the state would allow 99,760 square feet, but the actual square footage is 122,268.
If Miller-Driscoll’s square footage fell within the state standards, the reimbursement rate would be 22.14%. But the difference results in an “excess square footage discount” of 81.59%. Multiplying the two numbers yields the adjusted state reimbursement rate of 18.06%.
Tai Soo Kim has submitted an estimate of $8,856,000 in ineligible costs in the project total of $50,022,000. The number of ineligible costs could rise, depending on the contingency costs, which the state would consider on a case-by-case basis. That is how the firm came up with the minimum and maximum reimbursement from the state.
Ineligible costs include anything considered maintenance such as repairs or repainting, as well as off-site work such as might occur beyond the property line.
It was noted the reimbursement rate for building a new school is lower, in the vicinity of 12%.
Water pipes
The committee also on Wednesday approved work that involves the water mains that will serve the school. Aquarion is requiring the town to install a new water line from its main pipe across Wolfpit road.
At present, a four-inch pipe comes across the street to the school, but the renovation project requires an eight-inch line to accommodate a new sprinkler system. A new four-inch line will branch off from the larger pipe to serve other needs.
Aquarion requires the old four-inch pipe to be cut and capped.
The cost for this work is already in the budget. The committee unanimously approved selecting Burns Construction, at a cost of $31,617, which was the low bidder. There is an advantage to choosing Burns beyond price, said Michael Douyard, senior project manager for Turner Construction. This company is repaving the road for the state next month, and the pipe work will require digging up the road. This way, he said, Burns can do the water work and coordinate it with the paving so the road does not have to be disturbed twice.
Construction begins
Work on the new addition will begin in December, Douyard said. This is Phase I and it is expected to continue for a year.
Tentative dates for the remaining phases are:
Phase II — June 2016 to August 2016, renovation work;
Phase III — December 2016 to March 2017, renovation work;
Phase IV — April 2017 to June 2017, demolition of the pre-K wing;
Phase V — June 2017 to August 2017, renovation work.
Work on parent dropoff/pickup area and bus dropoff/pickup area will take place during the summers of 2016 and 2017.
Turner Construction expects to go to bid on the early aspects of the project by Sept. 4.
Change orders
Because unexpected events arise, there is always the possibility changes will need to be made, and so, the committee approved a subcommittee with change-order authorization. The members include Bruce Hampson, Karen Birck, Rick Tomasetti, Jim Newton, and John Murphy.
In the event a change needs to be approved quickly, this group would have the authority to approve up to $50,000 per change. Anything over that amount would go to the full committee.
As of this month, $6,376,562 in committed costs have been made. This includes $3,480,147 in site building costs and $2,896,415 in soft costs such as architectural and engineering fees, environmental assessment, hygienist fees for conducting hazmat testing and preparing the self-implementing plan of abatement, commissioning agents’ fees, some attorneys’ fees, and a portion of the cost of bringing gas service to the school.
According to Wilton Chief Financial Officer Sandy Dennies, the town bonded $8 million for the project in February at an interest rate of 2.776%. The town will continue to bond for this project each February for four more years.