Sad news to begin this month’s column. Warren Packard, former First Selectman from 1993 to 1995, passed away on January 31. He will be remembered for his community activism and positive impact on Suffield. I remember him fondly for adding to the political discourse in town, providing feedback that improved our governance.
Vaccinations proceed with 65+ added by the Governor and essential workers to follow in March. This includes non-medical first responders, encompassing Suffield’s firefighters. After much advocacy, Suffield hosted its first clinic in February for 75+, utilizing all allotted vaccines. We anticipate hosting future clinics. The Town Vaccine Hotline (668-3344) helped 75+ navigate the cumbersome process. More at https://portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus/COVID-19-Vaccinations. Regardless of vaccine status, wearing face masks, social distancing, hand washing and avoiding large gatherings remains strongly encouraged. Fingers crossed that we are in the home stretch!
Town Hall stands at 95% complete. I am delighted to report, current estimates reflect a savings between $100,000 – $200,000 from the $5.1M approved budget. While the Town certainly benefited from marketplace conditions due to COVID-19, I credit the project’s success to a number of lessons learned from Kent Memorial Library which changed the way we’ve always done things, including:
• Use of Construction Manager at Risk (CMR; Gilbane Building Company in this instance) shifted professional involvement into the design process with the CMR serving as advisor to the design team and advocate for the Town. Preconstruction services included cost estimating, scheduling, comprehensive environmental and detailed design review to best manage the project, understanding and forecasting any painful surprises. The bulk of pricing was not an estimate, but the result of the competitive bidding process. Allowances were adequate to handle predicted issues—finalized as the project progressed. During construction, unexpected change orders were limited due to the builder’s early involvement.
• CMR contract scrutinized to adequately protect Town’s interests.
• Daily oversight of construction process by Facilities Manager and Permanent Building Commission (PBC).
• Closely monitored budget and contingency usage via regular meetings among First Selectman, Facilities Manager and Gilbane.
• Newly launched Capital Projects page on the Town website to inform residents, address questions, track progress and provide accountability.
The renovation and one-story addition enables the town to house 100% of its employees in Town-owned buildings (versus leasing space). This was a priority of mine and results in annual savings of nearly $125,000 in rent, carrying/maintenance costs, and regained real/ personal property tax.
Among improvements: an impressive new meeting room with technological advancements; new land use and building departments space; expanded vault for mandated archiving needs; new and efficient HVAC system; resolution of environmental and moisture issues; refreshed and building code compliant spaces throughout. Town employees are packing as we anxiously anticipate welcoming back residents in our new space once safe to do so. A spring ribbon-cutting ceremony is on tap once warmer temperatures allow for completion of landscaping, parking and the front ADA entrance railings.
I extend my gratitude and thanks to the PBC, Public Works, Building Department and our construction partners at Gilbane and QA+M architects for their hard work and collaboration on this wonderful team effort!
A couple of quick updates with additional information available on the Town website (www.suffieldct.gov):
• 350th Parade – sign up to enter an organization/float. Its going to be epic!
• Public participation/comment – welcome at all Board meetings with important topics underway related to FY20-21 Budget and Charter Revision Commission (CRC).
• Launch of new CRC & Inclusivity website pages to apprise residents and support efforts.
• Conceptual designs for former Bridge Street School Site – currently under review with upcoming public meeting in the works.
Stay warm! Spring and the hope it promises is almost here.