Commission Discusses High School Greenhouse, Snow Costs, Middle School Roof

Public Building and Site Commission meet to discuss several projects on Tuesday, March 22.

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.”

Alex Tytler March 26, 2011 at 06:43 PM
Wow $80 an hour to shovel the roofs. They really sharpened the pencil on that one.
Alex Tytler March 26, 2011 at 07:28 PM
Is there a part of the school system that isn't run by union rules? This charge gives a good insight to what a poor value the taxpayer gets over and over again because of unions.
Douglas Brennan March 27, 2011 at 10:32 AM
The work of the commission is more professional then most groups in Town. However let us not report that their work or KB's work is the reason why a ridiculous cost estimate of $4,000,000 is now a little over $1,000,000. That my friends is because now the $4,000,000 is in the plan and will be used for something that might be more contorversial. Like more money for a project that is not really in the public interest. Probably at FFHills.
Mike Kelley May 29, 2011 at 02:38 AM
Thank you Mr. Mitchell and the Commission for staying on top of this. We appreciate what you and your volunteers have done. From $400,000 down to $200,000. Not clear on why $124,184 had to be requested if $400,000 was the original bid. It sounds like they thought ( the contractor) who bid on this job could do this job for $76,000 and then it ballooned to $400,000. Woops. Just hope it gets done for the $200,000. Math is not my strong point. I also hope the remediation to fix the sidelines is not costing the Town. Any clarification on both is appreciated.
Sandy Hook May 30, 2011 at 12:07 AM
Is $80/hour for one worker or 10?? Or does the contractor get $80/hour and pay the workers minimum wage, while keeping the rest as profit? Do we know what each shoveler got paid?
Sarah worly May 30, 2011 at 01:19 PM
Just a quick thought on my part but how many nurseries have a 400k greenhouse? Or for that matter a 200k greenhouse? After high school where would you go to get a job in such a facility? Perhaps the BOE should take a field trip to the UCONN campus and visit there greenhouses. Two were replaced this year for a budget price of $89,234
Tom Bittman May 30, 2011 at 02:59 PM
Sarah, the BOE doesn't do contracts for greenhouses. I appreciate the work the Public Building and Site Commission did he, but it would probably be helpful to explain the restrictions placed on them for a K-12 building.
frederick moran May 30, 2011 at 03:47 PM
sandyhook. union workers in this matter case consists of union laborers, where fairfield county laborers receive $33.45 per hour, including benefits. it is very common for contractors to charge the rate, then pay what they want. the above rate is what's in the paycheck, where the cost with taxes and insurance could bring the total to around $80 to $90 per hour
Lois Imbriano Barber May 31, 2011 at 12:20 AM
$400,00 can buy you a nice home with property. It was insane & insulting you were given that estimate to begin with. YOU ALREADY OWN THE LAND! $200, is still too high! You don't need bathrooms in it or staircases - you just need a greenhouse! Buy a pre-fab greenhouse, or like someone else said, visit the 2 that were bought at West Con. THIS IS WHY TAXES GO UP AND THE BUDGET IS DEFEATED.


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