Town Hall Renovation Costs Lower Than Expected

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The Guaranteed Maximum Price for the Town Hall renovations, received in the first week of June from Gilbane Building, the Town’s chosen Construction Manager at Risk, turned out to be a nice surprise. Unlike previous expectations, it now seems that the total price, including various contingency allowances, will be (rounded) $5.12 million, over a million dollars less than had been assumed in recent planning.

In a special meeting on May 28 (held remotely on Zoom, as were all the meetings mentioned in this article, except for one in February), the Permanent Building Committee (PBC) heard Gilbane project manager Nishant Patel report that Gilbane had received 93 bids from subcontractors and up to ten bids on each of 16 different tasks of the overall project. Most of the bids were below early estimates; perhaps because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The PBC discussed detailed alternatives in ten different parts of the project, such as the choice of material for the new front doors and the possibility of organizing the scaffolding needed in the main stairway so several contractors could use the same scaffold.

Gilbane had another week to prepare their Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP). They proceeded to research the qualifications of the low bidders and found them all satisfactory, so the low bidders were chosen. Gilbane’s GMP of (rounded to) $4.52 million was delivered digitally on June 5 with a 35-page summary of all the individual bids and a multi-page spread-sheet of the project schedule. The GMP did not include the “owner’s soft cost” of about one million dollars, which brings the total to $5.52 million. The Town, of course, is the owner, and “owner’s soft cost” comprises principally the architect and engineering costs and the owner’s contingency.

On June 8 the PBC, including First Selectman Melissa Mack, discussed Gilbane’s proposal. There was some concern about the various contingency allowances, some of which seemed like contingencies on top of contingencies. There was also concern about the wide spread between the chosen low bid HVAC contractor and the next lowest. It was agreed that the “owner’s contingency” which had been ten percent, could be cut in half because of the several other contingencies and protection in the overall estimate.

When the Board of Selectmen met on June 10, Suffield Facilities Manager Chris Matejek reported that with the Town’s contingency cut in half and certain other adjustments, the total cost would be $5.12 million. This figure is over a million dollars less than the $6.36 million First Selectman Mack said she would use for planning at the February 6 PBC meeting, before the recent PBC decisions and Gilbane’s actual GMP. Mack has said that funding was available from unexpended funds of completed projects, so the additional amount needed for the Town Hall project was well within the 2015 Town Meeting’s $5.13 million appropriation.

At their June 10 meeting, the Board of Selectmen postponed an acceptance vote when the two new Selectmen, Jerry Mahoney and Kathie Harrington, though they were favorably inclined, asked for time for a thorough review. The vote was postponed to the next meeting. As of this writing, a date for the next Selectmen’s meeting had not yet been published, but it was expected to be held in the last full week of June. (The two new selectmen bring the total number of lawyers on the five-person board to three, so one might expect an increased concern for “due diligence.”)

To empty the building for the planned renovation work, the First Selectman’s office and the Human Resources Department were expected to be moved on June 20 to the Town Hall Annex, next door to the west. That building was emptied recently when Parks & Rec moved to the Senior Center, taking over the last two rooms off the corridor next to the dining room. The Finance Department was to be moved back to 230C Mountain Road.

Gilbane’s project schedule shows “Mobilize on Site” on Monday, July 6, and three days of “Final Clean” in December, ending on Christmas Day. A nice present for Suffield!

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