First Selectman’s Update

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Melissa Mack

It has been said that “good things come to those who wait.” The patient people of Suffield have certainly waited long enough for the Town Hall renovation. Here I offer the fruits of over 13 years of the Town’s labor, expended in the form of discussions, studies, plans and proposals, and that the “good things” are finally near at hand.

The Permanent Building Commission (PBC) and I support housing the majority of town employees under one roof. Reasons include:

Improved customer service

Ease of use for residents and those doing business with town

Greater collaboration among employees

Savings of over $100,000 annually in leased space

Freeing commercial space to contribute to real and personal property tax rolls

To that end, PBC considered three options on May 10. Two plans renovate the existing building and incorporate an addition. A third details demolition and a new building on existing property. By challenging space needs assumptions, the new building comprises less overall square footage, and promises:

More efficient space usage

Less annual maintenance costs

Shared open work areas

Improved efficiency of HVAC, technology and energy systems

PBC deliberations focused on the facility to be delivered at completion emphasizing:

Building functionality

Ongoing operational costs

Working conditions

Employee efficiency

The PBC unanimously recommended the demolition/new build option and noted the following concerns related to renovating the older Town Hall building:

Current large open stairwell

Building Code issues potentially unable to be addressed

Unknown and unforeseen obstacles (environmental and otherwise)

Untouched areas requiring more than routine on-going maintenance

PBC requested another schematic of a newly constructed Town Hall designed as a welcoming cornerstone and architecturally appropriate for our historic New England agricultural town. This final piece of the puzzle will take approximately eight weeks to complete.

While PBC’s opinion and expertise is crucial to the process, ultimately the residents as our legislative body will decide how to proceed. Next steps to ensure that all stakeholders have a voice in the decision-making process include:

Present Plan Options

July 18 Tri-Board Meeting of Boards of Selectmen and Finance and PBC

Week of July 30 Public Informational Meeting

Vote on Plan Options

August 22 Special Meeting of BOS

August 27 (Tentative) Special Meeting of Board of Finance

Week of September 3rd Town Meeting

A referendum is not required for the Town to take action and to rescind the authorization at referendum in 2015.

I would be remiss if I did not address how we plan to regain resident confidence in the Town’s ability to manage a capital project better than in recent history. We will use an Owner’s Project Manager (OPM). From concept through project closeout, an OPM provides management assistance, technical and financial analysis, advocacy and oversight to ensure that the Town’s interests are represented and that the project is timely delivered, within budget, and meets the quality standards expected. The OPM assists in developing comprehensive budgets and timelines to ensure there are no surprises and to manage expectations. An OPM assists in hiring and negotiating contracts with necessary consultants (architect, contractor, etc.). The OPM manages the process from start to finish to ensure the Town’s goals are met. In working closely with the OPM for the Town Hall project, we will be accountable to the residents in finally solving the Town Hall question.

It goes without saying,  but thank you – for your patience and willingness to speak with me and work together towards the best possible outcome for the Town of Suffield and the best use of our hard-earned tax dollars. I welcome your opinions and participation in the process and breaking ground on this long overdue project.

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