HAMDEN – Pre-construction work will go forward on projects that will replace or renovate two of the town’s elementary schools, despite the uncertainty over how much of the cost the state will reimburse.
The Legislative Council last week approved the $150,000 agreements, will authorizes the Fusco Corporation to begin the pre-construction work on a new West Woods School and a renovated Shepard Glen School. Each project carries $75,000 in pre-construction costs..
Fusco was chosen to act as the construction manager for the projects, a different system than was used for the Town Hall/Police Department project that was riddled with problems. A construction manager is responsible for all of the contracts with the subcontractors, attorney Jeffrey Donofrio told the council.
Even after the job goes out to bid, the construction manager can’t proceed with the work until it gets written permission from the town, Donofrio said. There’s also a “termination for convenience” clause that gives the town the right to terminate the contract for any reason, he said.
“The provision is added to authorize the town to terminate the contract with no recourse,” he said, “and specifies that in the event the town doesn’t receive funding from the state or less than expected funding, the town can terminate the contract.”
The town would be responsible for the costs spent up to the termination of the contract, up to $75,000, Donofrio said.
Councilman Harry Gagliardi said he didn’t understand why the town would go forward with the project without knowing the state reimbursement rate, especially in light of the fiscal crisis enveloping state finances.
“We have no idea what the state is going to give us,” he said. “Until they tell us, why are we doing this?”
The Board of Education also is investigating redistricting and whether it would be prudent to close schools because of declining enrollment, he said. “Shouldn’t we wait until those decisions are made?” he said.
Donofrio pointed out that the town has already gone through the process of going out for requests for proposals, hired a construction manager and requested extensions from the state for the project. If it were now to decide to hold off, it would lose its state reimbursement rate under the 2016-17 fiscal year, he said, which is likely higher than what it will be in coming years.
When West Haven decided to delay construction of its new high school, it ended up costing that city millions more because of the reduced state reimbursement it ended up receiving, Donofrio said.
The contract provides for the event if the town wants to terminate the project, said Councilman Myron Hul, a former Board of Education member. “When we went out to bid, we made it very clear we were concerned about state funding and we want to protect the town in the event that the state funding doesn’t come through,” he said. “We are doing this now so that when the state says yes, everything is in order to take the next steps. This protects us if the state says no or if there is delays.”
“The state requires us to have all of our ducks in a row before they tell us how much money we are getting,” council President James Pascarella said. “What we have at risk is $75,000 for each building. We specifically don’t want to do much until the state tells us. It’s a dead issue if the state doesn’t come up with the money.”
The town will be kept inform of what’s going on with the project through the construction manager, Hul said. “The construction manager will give the town updates on the budget, and it will look at each item against what is eligible for reimbursement,” he said. “We will know that periodically throughout the project.”
The Legislative Council has the only authority over spending, Gagliardi said. “The only people who can authorize spending is the 15 people sitting at this table,” he said. The Building Committee has no responsibility.”
Councilman-at-Large Austin Cesare said he supports the project but has concerns. “The schools are in horrible condition,” he said, “but I’m concerned about how much state money we’ll get.”
“Right now we are on the fast track,” Pascarella said. “We have an approval based on the 2016-17 fiscal year. If they decide we are no longer on that fast track and reign in the rates for the 2017-18 fiscal year it might not be as good.”
Former Building Committee Chairman and Councilman John DeRosa said he pushed for a construction manager for the Town Hall project. “It’s the only way to know the numbers,” he said. “If there’s no construction manager, we are just shooting darts.”
But Gagliardi, who was the lone council member to vote against the funding, said it’s too much of a risk to spend that much money now without knowing what will happen.
“The reimbursement rate hasn’t been decided yet,” he said. “We are going to put out $150,000 and not get anything back for it if the state says our reimbursement rate will be 20 percent.”