It’s a worst-case scenario, magnified – middle school renovation costs associated with environmental remediation will cost, at the least, $6 million more than initially budgeted for and could force the town back to the drawing board.
Members of the Southington Middle School Building Committee expressed anger and frustration Tuesday after projected costs came in well above anything that members could have anticipated. To make matters worse, early efforts to offset costs for remediation could now be nullified by increases in design development of nearly 10-percent.
“We were told all along that at most, these added environmental costs would lead to an increase of 2 percent in design development costs; we walk into the last (value management sub-committee) meeting and are told we would see increases of 8.9 and 10.2 percent,” said building committee member Christopher Palmieri. “This is unacceptable.”
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For weeks, the committee has worked with architect Fletcher Thompson to find revisions that would allow them to account for environmental remediation costs that were expected to be double the $2.8 million originally anticipated.
But the news isn’t good – further testing of 255 samples at both Kennedy Middle School and DePaolo Middle School revealed that PCBs had “leeched,” or spread internally, from calking to objects such as brick, cinderblock and flooring.
James Twitchell, and environmental expert with Hygenix, Inc., told members of the committee that he anticipates an agreement with the federal Environmental Protection Agency that could eliminate the need to conduct the removal of an exterior wall vapor barrier, one which is not exposed and would cause no harm to those using the building.
But even without the added vapor wall removal, the costs are exorbitant: $6.44 million above the budgeted $2.8 million for environmental remediation to be exact. If no agreement is reached, Twitchell said that cost would soar to $14.21 million beyond budget.
By comparison, the cost of PCB remediation at Maloney High School in Meriden is expected to cost just $2.5 million in all, officials said.
The increased scope of the project would also lead to “at least an additional year to complete,” which added to these estimated costs, said Thomas DiMauro, construction manager and project executive for Newfield Construction of Hartford, the design team hired for the project.
“Over the last two weeks, I have been in contact with the EPA and have asked for meeting to see what can be done to allow this material to stay. (The contamination) is bound by an interior cinderblock wall and exterior brick, there is no impact of exposure whatsoever,” Twichell said.
“If we do leave PCBs in place, the town will be required to put into place a system of annual or bi-annual monitoring including air quality and create a plan to remediate the issue over time.”
Vern Chanski, member of the committee, said he doesn’t blame the architects for the increased costs, saying everyone came in expecting maybe $5 million total including already budgeted costs, but felt that the architects failed to clearly communicate and the increased design development costs in excess of the environmental cleanup are inappropriate.
“This failure to communicate is completely unprofessional,” Chanski said.
Money is now as big a concern as ever, and after efforts to address increased costs by eliminating aspects of the project totaling over $9 million were negated by unanticipated and poorly communicated overrun charges, members of the building committee were livid as they voted to freeze invoice and payment until further explanation is given.
So what do the new costs mean for the project? That still remains to be seen.
Brian Goralski, chairman of the Southington Board of Education and member of the building committee, said there are new logistical issues to discuss including where students would be and whether it could be done without impacting class schedules.
“I like that we are using real numbers, but now we need to look at the real impact these changes would have,” Goralski said.
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