The Public Building and Site Commission has approved a $124,184 change order to complete construction of a new Newtown High School greenhouse, which brings the total cost of the greenhouse to around $200,000, or about half the original estimate, officials said.
“We did get that number down significantly,” commission chairman Bob Mitchell said during a Tuesday meeting at the Reed Intermediate School. “That made the commission worthwhile.”
Designers had originally believed they could reuse an old greenhouse at the school but when workers went to move it, the deteriorated structure fell apart, officials said.
That prompted officials to figure out what a new one would cost. So a bid request was sent out last year, and the response that came back estimated the work at more than $400,000, including for foundation and other work.
But in the ensuing months, officials were able to reduce costs by taking another look at the specifications and finding cheaper alternatives. The total cost was about $200,000 but taking into consideration money that was already budgeted for the greenhouse, the commission only needed to approve an additional $124,184, officials said.
“It’s been a hard fight to get it down to that number,” Mitchell said.
Work to construct the greenhouse should begin later in the spring, officials said.
Another item that prompted concern was the cost of snow removal on the roof, which amounted to about $32,000 for 400 work hours spent over multiple days on overtime, officials said.
The snow removal was somewhat hampered by the construction state of the high school, and the high costs were due to the use of a roofing contractor who had union workers on overtime, officials said.
“It was done by union rules, which is the reason why that number is so high,” Mitchell said. “It was like a license to print money.”
In addition to the high school, commission members discussed the Newtown Middle School roof replacement project, which was approved for $4.3 million.
Officials have been able to reduce the amount, although work remains on finalizing the final number, particularly because some of the aging air conditioning units on the roof may need to be replaced.
For instance, officials are recommending the town investigating replacing an aging air conditioning unit that serves three computer labs with three smaller Mitsubishi units. Kaestle Boos, the town’s consultant on the roof project, is in the midst of collecting cost estimates.
Mitchell said the commission needs to keep its focus on constructing a water-tight roof so “it doesn’t become an air conditioning project with a roof attached to it.”
At the same time, if the air conditioning units only have a few years of use left in them, it makes more sense to replace the units now rather than later in order to protect the roof investment, he said.
“I don’t want to get anybody back on that roof in three to five years if I can avoid it,” Mitchell said.
Officials also are investigating the possibility of installing photovoltaic panels on the roof, although that work may have to be part of a separate project because it was not included in the original bonding for the project.
The town may be able to receive state reimbursement for the project, and could receive the funding in the summer of 2012 if it applies for the grant by this June 30. Otherwise the state funds would be available later, consultant Charles Boos said.
“Most towns can bridge that gap very easily with financing until state funds catch up,” he said. “It really is local choice how you want this thing financed.”