Building committee reminded of budget limits

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice addressed the Police Headquarters/Town Campus Building Committee at its meeting Tuesday night, Aug. 21, with concerns the project it is working on not go over budget. Although a budget has not been firmed up, she reminded the committee the bonding proposal passed last year by voters to explore a new police station was approximately $1.2 million, based on a projected budget of $12.5 million.

That number was based on a 2015 cost estimate following a needs assessment conducted by an architectural firm.

Since that time, the building committee was formed and in addition to solving the police department’s overcrowding issues it has to consider problems with the town hall annex and town hall itself. Part of the committee’s solution is to move some personnel to unused space at Comstock Community Center, which still must be completed.

Vanderslice asked committee members to consider if they could do all they are being asked to do for that $12.5 million. She said figuring that out “sooner rather than later” is imperative.

“If we can’t do it for $12.5 million, then this is a phasing-in operation over some period of time,” she said. “If you go with a much more expensive project, I don’t think it will pass.”

Whether or not that number is feasible, committee member David Johnson said the committee still has a responsibility to document the needs that exist with each building. Depending on costs, “we may have to stage things in,” he said.
Moving forward
With a target date of Nov. 5, 2019 for a referendum to approve funding for the project — which is the same date as the municipal election — the committee moved forward on a number of items.

After a presentation by Marc Sklenka, a senior director of project management with Colliers International of Madison, Conn., the board unanimously approved a motion to prepare a request for qualifications (RFQ) for an owner’s project manager (OPM) to oversee the police/town hall building project. Johnson, who is a civil engineer, and Burney will prepare the RFQ for presentation to the full committee, likely at a special meeting before the next regular meeting which is scheduled for Sept. 18.

Sklenka, invited to the meeting by facilities director Chris Burney, explained that an owner’s project manager is a professional who oversees a project on behalf of the owner, in this case the town.

“We speak for you. We listen for you. We take direction from you,” he said. When hired early on in a project a firm like his can work with a design team and develop options. It can help determine if a budget is realistic. Working on an hourly basis, the cost, he said, would probably work out to about 2% to 3% of this project budget.

Later in the meeting the committee discussed the benefits of using third-party management.

“I am a huge believer in the value of it,” Johnson said. Committee member Kathy Poirier agreed, saying “there is so much work we’ll have to do … it’s more than a couple hours a month job. It would be good to have a person who’s not the contractor and not the architect. This would be a person truly on our side.”

Vanderslice pointed out that Burney eventually filled this role full time for the Miller-Driscoll project. Now with the additional duties of being facilities manager for the school district and head of the Department of Public Works, he does not have time to work exclusively on the police/town hall project.

“The value of having Chris there, we saved money and good decisions were made,” Vanderslice said.
The committee also reviewed a template for a statement of requirements for the project which it will begin working on at a later date.

The committee also authorized Burney to arrange for a hazardous materials assessment for the police station, town hall, and annex building.

The committee will appear before the Board of Selectmen at its meeting on Sept. 17 to review the project.

(This story has been edited to clarify who is working on the RFQ for an owner's project manager and the status of the statement of requirements.)