The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday approved an amendment to the town’s contract with the construction manager of the New Canaan Police Department renovation that sets the guaranteed maximum price or “GMP” of the project at $20,235,000.
Another $5 million has been budgeted for soft costs, with about $2 million each for a temporary police headquarters downtown during the renovation and contingencies, bringing the overall cost of the project to about $29 million, according to Joe Zagarenski, senior engineer in the Department of Public Works.
The total represents the same figure that members of the Police Department Building Committee presented to town funding bodies in July, Zagarenski told the selectmen during their regular meeting, held at Town Hall and via videoconference.
“It’s the same project, it’s just further developed and competitively bid now,” Zagarenski said.
The appointed Committee has put forth a project to retain the historic architecture of the 1927-built red brick building at 174 South Ave.—originally built as the first New Canaan High School—while fully renovating it. The project also will see the addition on the rear of the structure replaced with a new one for parking and with a sallyport and jail cells. Officials have referred to the project as the renovate-as-new or “Town Hall option,” as a similar project had been done about eight years ago with the expansion and renovation there.
Officials have said the project could start around Thanksgiving of this year and finish in the fall of 2025.
The Police Department Building Committee’s members are Chair Bill Walbert, Jim Beall, Amy Murphy Carroll, Michael Chen, Paul Foley, Mike Mauro, Penny Rashin and Paul Tully. Stuart Sawabini serves as an advisor, while non-voting members include members of the New Canaan Police and Public Works Departments.
Shelton-based Turner Construction—which, officials noted, did an excellent job with the New Canaan Library project—is providing construction services.
“Turner bid 25 separate bid packages, basically all the trades, and the bid results came in and they’re the basis of the GMP,” Zagarenski said.
Berlin-based Jacunski Humes Architects is providing architectural, interior, civil engineering, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, information technology, site planning and landscape design. The Committee brought on an owner’s rep in Gene Torone, who’d worked on the Saxe Middle School renovation and expansion as a rep from Glastonbury-based S/L/A/M Collaborative.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Selectman Nick Williams said, “Hallelujah, it’s about time.”
“We were talking about a new police station when I took office in 2011 with former First Selectman Rob Mallozzi, and it’s great we’re finally moving forward.”
He added: “Now it’s going to cost us a lot more money because we’ve delayed crazily, prior to COVID. We were talking about this, well, whatever. This is great.”
Williams appeared to refer to First Selectman Kevin Moynihan’s unpopular proposal, unveiled two years ago, to relocate the police station to a Saxe Middle School playing field.
Referring to the renovation of the Playhouse on Elm Street—a project that has moved forward under a “design-build” model and has come in at about $8 million, twice the original budget—Williams asked Zagarenski and members of the Committee, “How do I get comfortable with this not being a cluster you-know-what, like the Playhouse?”
Murphy Carroll responded, “Nick, I think this is completely different. This project to me seems very much like the Saxe Building Committee, OK? We have professionals along the way who have vetted every single cost ahead of time.”
Williams noted that “there’s no design and build,” a planning and construction model that he described as “Mickey Mouse.” (The designer on the Playhouse project is New Canaan-based Architectural Preservation Studios. According to the firm’s website, its professional staff includes Senior Project Manager Rose Scott Long. Her husband, Carl Rothbart, is a principal of the firm. The firm has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts from the town for the Playhouse project.)
Murphy Carroll noted that the town did get hit with increased construction costs “because we got pushed back a year or two trying to decide we’re going to do a building.”
“But I think what you have here is how you should do a building,” she said. “You figure it out. You realize it’s going to cost more money, but people know it ahead of time. And this has been vetted very closely in terms of contingencies, making sure, since this is a renovation, that we’re renovating the whole thing. And so it’s going to be basically a new building going forward. So we’re not going to end up having a surprise cost in 10 years or anything like that. So it’s been very, very well vetted and, you took your time, you took the time to do it and really dug down. Joe and the group have just done an amazing job.”
Williams described Murphy Carroll as “a cost maven” and said that he appreciated her work on the Committee.
Asked for assurances that she’s comfortable with the police building project, Murphy Carroll said, “The reality is things cost money. They just do. And, you know, you hate it. But if you were to adjust up what we did for this building, it’s very similar in some ways. We had an old building renovated, and an addition. Now, the police building has a lot of things they have to have. They’re not optional. You have to have the security, the safety, the sally port. You know, the things that cost more money. But that’s kind of in line, if you inflate it up, with what we ended up paying here.”
She added that all buildings “have a useful life” that eventually runs out.
“They just do,” she said. “You’ve got to fix it up over time. And it’s a fundamental thing in the town that you need to have a police station and you need to have one that’s up to code. We have a lot of code issues in the current one.”
Moynihan, Williams and Selectman Kathleen Corbet voted 3-0 to approve the amendment to the contract with Turner, setting the GMP.
“I want to thank you all,” Moynihan said. “We have a great building committee that we put together and I think you did a great job.”