Selectmen Begin Exploring Municipal Facilities Analysis

Top elected officials began what is expected to be a slow, deliberate, and complex process to produce the most comprehensive analysis of town-owned buildings and facilities ever mounted in Newtown.

After much pre-meeting discussion, the Board of Selectmen June 2 welcomed Geralyn Hoerauf, AIA, LEED AP, and senior project manager from Diversified Project Management. Ms Hoerauf will be supporting selectmen and other town staff, contractors, and officials through at least the preliminary stages of facilities analysis prep.

During her visit and presentation Monday, First Selectman Pat Llodra brought a couple of other voices into the conversation, including a member of the Edmond Town Hall Board of Managers and the local Cultural Arts Commission chair.

Based on her research, Ms Hoerauf determined the last two smaller scale analyses were produced exclusively for the Newtown Police Department in 2008, and a broader study compiled by Kaestle Boos Associates in 1999. She also noted the town’s recently completed and mandated update of the Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) and a continuing energy performance savings initiative.

The project manager noted that ongoing and currently planned developments include a community center funded by a grant from General Electric, as well as plans to construct a new town aquatic center with at least two pools, and the pending relocation of Parks & Recreation administrative offices from Town Hall South below police headquarters.

The recently announced Hook & Ladder headquarters construction project was noted as the latest facilities development on the town’s drawing board, although the volunteer company is currently housed in a deteriorating town building, while its new headquarters will be owned by the company itself.

When looking across the landscape of town facilities that could provide space to accommodate the relocation of administration or programming, Ms Hoerauf pointed to the Sandy Hook Multipurpose Center which currently houses the Senior Center and Children’s Adventure Center preschool. The Senior Center is expected to be relocated into part of the new community center once it is completed.

While it could eventually be marketed for sale, Town Hall South with its approximately 20,000 square feet of space was also noted as a possible further opportunity for relocating or expanding certain town operations, including police services if deemed feasible or desirable.


Hook & Ladder

Similar consideration would be given to the soon-to-be-vacated Hook & Ladder headquarters, although it is more likely the building would be renovated before other future uses are considered — or razed.

That facility has nearly 30,000-square-feet of space for possible municipal use if it is made structurally sound.

Ms Hoerauf noted that among the most preliminary chores on a long list tied to facilities analysis would be to choose and evaluate the structural and programmatic potential for certain key buildings. First Selectman Pat Llodra has long targeted Town Hall South, the current Hook & Ladder headquarters, and the multipurpose facility as primary candidates for consideration.

Visual inspections of each facility under consideration, a determination of any or all repairs required, useful life span, code deficiencies, and possible change of use should all be considered as part of the earliest phase of a facilities analysis, Ms Hoerauf pointed out.

The next step would involve space needs studies taking into account programmatic potential of each facility, other possible development, and the evaluation of spaces within those facilities. The evaluation of facilities’ locations and the identification of possible future growth and consolidation trends would also be required.

Project oversight, she suggested, should be handled by an existing or a newly appointed advisory body.

“Project oversight could be from the Board of Selectmen, another board, an ad-hoc panel,” she said. “They will be playing an ongoing role throughout the process.”

Members of that panel could be charged with determining the anticipated scope of the study; providing vision and guidance as the analyses progress, continual review and rescoping based on real-time feedback, a review and validation of consultant recommendations, as well as eventual production and presentation of the final strategic plan.

Ms Hoerauf sees her role, and the role of Diversified, as developing the initial plan of action, strategic plan format, providing staff support for the advising committee, coordinating any or all consultants on the analyses, scheduling deliverables, and reporting back to the town during the process.


Next Steps

In discussing how to move forward, Ms Hoerauf told selectmen that they needed to consider whether to use architects to handle much of the project, or a vendor whose only specialty is performing facilities analyses. Mrs Llodra noted that because such a strategic process is not currently budgeted, the town would likely have to phase the initiative over a period of years.

Selectman James Gaston, Sr, asked whether consultants would break down the cost to analyze each building, or group of buildings, and questioned how long the process might take. Ms Hoerauf responded saying a three-building analysis could take four months, adding another two months for each additional building as the process plays out.

Selectman Will Rodgers cautioned that as the process begins, selectmen should avoid appointing volunteers to the committee who lack a sense of town history and logistics. He also said early-on that selectmen would need to determine if they want to be more budget-driven, or more utopian, “costs be damned.”

He also suggested bringing in representatives who produced former studies to determine whether or how much previous data were still applicable today.

Mrs Llodra also said that eventually, Edmond Town Hall should be brought into the circle of facilities in the analysis. Karen Pierce, a town hall manager, noted that building is on the National Register of Historic Places, and that Hook & Ladder is within a sanctioned National Historic District, and suggested members of the Historic Buildings Commission could be considered to play a role.

“Maybe they could look at whether there is a matching grant available [for doing part of the study],” Ms Pierce offered. Mr Gaston reminded his colleagues that Town Hall South is also part of that Main Street historic district, as well, and may qualify under such a grant application.

Cultural Arts Commission Chair Laura Lerman said she and the 20 groups her panel represents “feel like orphans” because they were not mentioned among possible community center tenants.

Mrs Llodra responded saying even the community center development would be phased, and that conversation may still occur. At the same time, the first selectman said the Cultural Arts Commission is also “ripe for consideration” in discussions about a standalone arts center.

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