‘I Am Worried About the Town’s Exposure’: Cautiously, Selectmen Approve Contract Change To Expedite Work at Saxe

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Seeking to gain eight or nine precious workdays after school lets out, town officials on Monday effectively expedited a handful of contracts connected to the Saxe Middle School renovation and expansion, totaling nearly $6 million.

Facing a delay in the widely anticipated $18.6 million project—a holdup caused in part, officials say, by the EPA taking longer than expected to approve abatement and remediation plans—members of the Saxe Building Committee at a special meeting of the Board of Selectmen requested an amended contract for the project’s construction manager on agreements with five vendors.

Given that the delay would cost about $70,000 to $75,000 per month, Mallozzi noted that savings here would come to approximately $18,000.

The selectmen voted 3-0 in favor of the amended contract, though only after receiving some assurances vis-à-vis the town’s risk, since they were asked specifically to allow the amended contracts, totaling $5.8 million, “prior to the determination of the guaranteed maximum price.”

“So what we are doing today is saying to [construction manager] O&G is, ‘Go ahead and let’s engage these five vendors, but we cannot guarantee right now to the town’—which is what you folks have a responsibility to do—‘we cannot guarantee what the maximum pricing of this project is going to be,’ ” Mallozzi said at the meeting, held in Town Hall.

“So my deal as a selectman is: We want to save the $18,000 and speed up by eight or nine days the construction, but what is the risk to the town? Are we kind of getting this thing out of sequence? Usually I would think the prudent thing to do would be to have that guaranteed maximum price before us, so we know it will go no further. But what if some major issue comes up with these five major construction projects and work being done, and it upsets what our projected maximum price is? We haven’t got that guarantee from O&G yet. So I am worried about the town’s exposure.”

The project includes the renovation of the 59-year-old auditorium at Saxe, which closed in December 2014 after officials found PCBs in its paint—additional contaminants turned up during remediation—as well as a “right-sizing” of music rooms that a building committee immediately identified as a need, and a 12-room addition that emerged a few months later to address rapidly rising enrollment at the overcrowded middle school.

Originally scheduled for completion in August 2017, prior to the start of the 2017-18 school year, the project is now on track to finish later that fall. No disruption to student learning will occur as a result of the adjusted timetable, officials say, and the Saxe Building Committee will present its plan to parents in detail at 2 p.m. on June 2, according to its chairman, Penny Rashin.

Lorel Purcell, a construction manager with Torrington-based O&G Industries, Inc., told Mallozzi that the only work happening between now and June 16 is that the contractors are proceeding with “shop drawings”—work likely totaling less than $50,000.

Rashin added that all contracts with O&G have “termination for convenience” clauses, “so that if something went wrong—and we don’t expect it will—that would protect the town and O&G as well.”

The specific work and amounts in question are for abatement and demolition ($573,000), concrete ($399,859), steel and metals ($1,073,208), HVAC ($2,266,000) and electrical and fire alarm ($1,525,000).

Selectman Beth Jones asked whether the bids that came back to the Building Committee were in line with what was expected. Rashin said that yes, they were within the project budget.

“We are absolutely confident that we can do all that work within the funds appropriated by the town bodies,” Rashin said. “O&G did their job and got a lot of interest from different contractors.”

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