WHITMAN — Selectmen approved a two-step process of a special Town Meeting in January and a clear plan of steps taken to set up a building committee, in order to prepare for a fall Town Meeting on a final plan for a new DPW building.
“What we buy from it is more planning, more details and some of the money in the final override kind of thing,” said Selectmen Chairman Dr. Carl Kowalski.
The Board of Selectmen discussed the issue during a joint meeting with the Board of Public Works Commissioners on Tuesday, Dec. 7.
The new DPW Building Committee will have 10 members – two of the commissioners, the two superintendents, a Selectman, the town administrator and four residents at-large, some of whom may be DPW employees.
Heineman will be preparing a draft warrant article for Selectmen’s review for presentation at the Dec. 21 meeting, including funding sources for the 10 percent of the projected total cost of about $11 million – to be used to come up with a shovel-ready plan, or 10 percent, of the overall projected construction costs.
“There’s been an effort to figure out what to do with our dilapidated DPW barn on Essex Street for several years,” Town Administrator Lincoln Heineman said, noting that the Board of Public Works Commissioners has worked with Environmental Partners Group for about seven months to come up with a tentative plan and design schematics for what that new building might look like. Funds for that work had been appropriated at Town Meeting this spring.
Consultant Ziad Kary from Environmental Partners Group made a presentation on what the drawings entail such as cost estimates, building design and layout to reach the consensus achieved with Selectmen this week on the next steps for the project.
“This is something that’s very important to the DPW,” said Commissioner Kevin Cleary in introducing Kary, and his follow-up on decisions made so far by his board and where they would like to see the project go.
“The town had already hired a geotechincal investigation person who did some [test] borings,” Kary said. “The site was really not suitable for a typical foundation, so he came up with granite aggregate.” The material was chosen because of the site’s past use as a landfill and there was potentially materials in the soil that would rule out more typical foundation work.
“But we didn’t really do any subsurface exploration ourselves,” he said of the recommendation for stone columns.
The original design rejected by Town Meeting in 2016 included provisions such as separate locker rooms for female and male employees, drive-through garages for maintenance facilities and other amenities. Some utilities would have to be relocated beneath an existing building.
“This existing building would have to be demo’d,” Kary said of the present building, noting that the current plan involved a prefabricated metal building. “Really nothing would be salvaged out of it.”
A conceptual cost estimate of the pre-engineered steel building on a shallow foundation with steel columns, based on previous projects and current costs, is for $10.9 million, including a 25 percent contingency and estimates on the impact of COVID and resulting supply chain problems.
An independent cost estimate was sought to have “a second set of eyes” on the plan and costs, with that firm coming up with a price tag of $9,750,000
“The only difference is they did not include engineering and [owner project manager] costs,” Kary said. The second estimate was also based on a 15 percent contingency and escalation forecasts for midpoint and future bid date added about $750,000.
Schematic designs and the selection of an owners project manager are among the steps remaining before bids can be sought.
“Everyone knows the history,” Cleary said of the original process that began in 2008. “We got very good support at [the 2012] Town Meeting, but not at Town Election. … Unfortunately some things kept getting in front of it, whether it was some water line work, the sewer force main … unfortunately, the building kept getting pushed and we just can’t push it anymore.”
The building has continued to deteriorate and facilities such as bathrooms, break room and locker facilities are lacking.
“We have millions of dollars’ worth of equipment,” Cleary said. “The townspeople have invested a lot in the last few town meetings with truck upgrades.”
The DPW Board has voted they want to move forward with the full project at the next Town Meeting.
“We have a good concept and we have a good estimate,” he said. “We just need to move this forward. Any delays are only going to cost more.”
Kowalski said the town needs to move forward in a way that’s going to have the town’s support.
“We’ve got to get this out there sooner rather than later,” Cleary said.
OSHA guidelines will soon pose a problem for the town if nothing is done, said Selectman Dan Salvucci who was on the previous building committee.
“Time does not save us money, it costs us money,” Salvucci said. “It’s that simple. … We’ve needed this building for many years, but people seem to think the DPW is just a large garage where you keep trucks,” he said. “They are as important as any department in this town.”
He said residents need to realize a new building is needed for the well-being of employees as well as the maintenance of new and expensive equipment.
Hieneman supported appropriating $1.1 million to come up with a shovel-ready plan, or 10 percent, of the overall projected construction costs – possibly at a special Town Meeting by February – then attempting a debt exclusion when “crystal clear” architectural plans are ready. He also suggested a building committee and research into a new location – the latter has already been done.
Kowalski asked how far back would that put the opening of any new building. Heineman estimated six months.
He argued if it adds six or even eight months, the flip side of it not passing in a ballot initiative is a much longer setback.
“We’d like to move forward with the full plan at Town Meeting in May,” Cleary said. “We could have a design ready for bid by fall and construction by the beginning of 2023.”
“There’s a lot to be said about keeping the current site,” Salvucci said of work done during the previous building effort to find alternate sites around town.
“Committees spend a lot of time talking and not a lot of time doing and I don’t want to push this down the road much,” Kowalski said.
“I don’t want to see you guys in that building much longer.”
Selectman Randy LaMattina questioned why the new plan did not include and estimated cost of site work?
Demolition and foundation is included, but site improvements are limited to the buildings.
“Based off this alone, there’s a lot of variables,” he said. “I would say you are missing a ton of information …I don’t think anyone on this board is questioning the need for this building. I like Lincoln’s plan. We get a taste for where the public is on this.”
He said a building committee has to be set up and an OPM hired.
“It’s not to add a $1.2 million to the project, it’s to basically pay $1.2 million now and do some of the detail work that Randy sees,” Kowalski said. “It’s actually reducing the cost to the voters.”
Selectman Brian Bezanson said, conceptually he loves the plan.
“Nobody deserves it more than employees of that department,” he said. But he agreed with LaMattina’s concerns.