NORWALK, Conn. – The cost of the West Rocks Middle School window and door replacements has more than doubled.
Updated cost estimates have gone from $1.4 million to $3.1 million, Norwalk Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hamilton wrote last week in a letter to the Board of Education, further explaining that the work will now be done in two phases.
The BoE is expected to vote on the final plans for the windows Tuesday. The Common Council approved a $1.1 million expenditure for the project in June.
The presence of PCBs has added to the cost, Silver Petrucelli & Associates Senior Project Manager John Ireland explained in a letter to the BoE, explaining that the estimate for abatement is about $370,000 and that additional testing and monitoring during construction is estimated at $76,000.
Ireland is working for the Board as a consultant, hired to do the Facilities Feasibilities Study that has resulting in the request for $117 million in capital funding this year to build two new schools.
The hike in expense is also due to a “surprising and unusual unforeseen condition” – “the existing steel window wall system with the building heat pipes hung on this same steel window wall,” Ireland said.
“This was discovered late in the startup process when a set of drawings was finally located and then by a subsequent trip down to the school by one of our mechanical engineers (Ken Eldridge.) who confirmed this existing condition with the removal of the cover on MLK day,” Ireland wrote. “The steel heat pipes and the steel heat cover are in fact supported by the same vertical steel window wall that is the exterior of this school building, windows, and all. This steel window wall system spans two floors and is about 4-inches narrower than the proposed and current curtain wall system. So continuous steel plates and details to extend the bearing have been added. The heat pipe now needs to be independently support and new custom cover added to the design. This unforeseen scope added approximately $350,000.”
There’s also $200,000 for a secure and energy efficient main entry and $150,000 for “additional scope of work and details, for counters, sills, window surrounds, blinds, AC panels that were not included in a square foot cost;” the “extent and cost of the curtain wall system, and doors was underestimated,” a $250,000 addition, and “our fees increased by $15,000 to administer two bid packages and two separate summer construction periods,” he said.
“We have had lengthy discussions about the project cost estimating needed to apply for a school construction grant,” Ireland wrote to the Board. “The grant application process and the development of the educational specifications is challenging. The scope of work can be a long wish list paired with a guestimate. While I believe, this project is better defined than that, it remains a ‘blind’ process. No testing, no uncovering of existing conditions, no as built drawings at the start, (we still do not have the Science wing addition) and no analysis followed by no design. In short, the scope of work and grant estimate was underestimated.”
“I think we agree most hazardous material in schools are manageable until the recent identification of and focus on PCBs,” Ireland wrote, adding that the due diligence of the Facilities Study did not include hazardous material identification or projected project cost. “… I trust that you know that our firm has and will continue to strive to help you manage and control these unexpected and unanticipated changes in the scope of the project and then the scope of our fees. We are not happy when the project cost climb and hope that this message gets through to other parties in the City.”
Neither Board of Education Chairman Mike Lyons nor BoE Facilities Committee Chairman Mike Barbis responded to a Friday email asking about the jump.
Mayor Harry Rilling said he attended last week’s meeting of the Norwalk Facilities Construction Commission.
“I made my displeasure well know about the discrepancy in the original estimate and the latest estimate,” Rilling said Sunday. “I was not pleased and I felt it would be in our best interest to dig in a little deeper and ask Silver Petrucelli to come and explain how this could happen so we don’t run into this again in the future.”
Building and Facilities Manager Alan Lo indicated that there are “plausible explanations for some of the increase,” Rilling said.
“It was very eye opening when it surfaced,” Rilling said. “We want to make sure that when we start budgeting for repairs and when we start budgeting for construction that we are going to be surprised like we were with this. We don’t want those kind of surprises.”
The window project will take longer than expected, due to the complications.
“Approximately one-half of the project will be undertaken during the summer of 2017, and the second half will be undertaken during the following summer,” Hamilton wrote to the BoE. “The architects on the project have determined that the scope of this window replacement is such that we would run the risk of not completing the entire project during the short summer recess period, and that it is advisable to divide the work into two phases to ensure that we do not interfere with the opening of school after the 2017 summer break.”
The Phase I work is estimated to cost $1,338,254, he said, writing, “With expected State reimbursement (which has not yet been formally appropriated by the City), the current appropriation of $1,100,000 is sufficient to proceed with Phase 1 of this project. We are currently working with the City to identify potential ways to finance the remaining balance of Phase 2, and will bring forward a formal recommendation at a later date.”