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Ad Hoc Building Workgroup Planning For Newtown’s Future



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Newtown’s ad hoc Building Inventory and Planning Workgroup was formed earlier this year with a primary goal of identifying long-term capital improvements that various town boards may need to consider in the future.

“We try and discover what various boards will be facing for capital improvements,” said Public Works Director Fred Hurley told The Newtown Bee July 30.

Part of identifying capital improvements, said Hurley, is to try to develop a data stream from the town’s maintenance records. By analyzing the maintenance records, the workgroup hopes to get an “earlier indication” when mechanical systems in the buildings may need replacement, by analyzing the date to determine how the systems “wear, and how they need help.”

This information can help the town’s boards and commissions plan where projects may fit in the town’s capital improvement plan (CIP).

Hurley said the data collection is a work in progress, and they are currently “putting down the backbone.”

“We’re not to the point where we’ve completed our survey or doing projections,” Hurley said. “A big point that we’re still figuring out is how to inject the maintenance records in a meaningful way for mechanical planning.”

Workgroup Chair Ned Simpson told The Bee that when he was first elected to the Board of Finance, in reviewing the town’s CIP, he saw references to roofs, parking lots, air handling units, and boilers, among other capital fixtures, and with his previous experience as an administrator at a number of local hospitals, felt there “should be an inventory to help the town project out in the future.”

Creating An Inventory

Simpson recalled there had been an inventory done in town in 2010, but it almost exclusively focused on school buildings. Last year, when First Selectman Dan Rosenthal discussed expanding the horizons of the CIP from five years to ten, Simpson said he thought it would be “great if the town had an updated inventory.”

The workgroup was formed to create it.

Figuring out how to create the inventory in a user-friendly and easy-to-update format has been a key to the workgroup’s efforts, and Simpson said workgroup member Graham Clifford, who has a background in information technologies, developed a prototype.

“We’re now at the point we have a data model,” said Simpson. “We want to make maintenance more efficient so as to avoid emergencies.”

According to the group’s building inventory data design plan, its goal is “setting up a system of data management that can help identify the need for future funding (i.e., CIP and capital non-recurring). Doing so gives the town time to plan for bonding and/or to put money into the capital non-recurring account in preparation of replacement and/or major repairs and maintenance. For both, having a useful inventory that included all (major) components managed by the town and BOE will help with the overall planning, including how to sequence projects.”

Simpson said the workgroup’s review of data has shown that Newtown had a “building boom” between the 1950s and ‘80s.

Among the projects they are looking at as examples in their planning are the installation of a gas boiler and LED lighting at Reed Intermediate School, window modifications at Middle Gate Elementary School, and the installation of a new elevator in Hawley Elementary School.

Long-term planning is especially important for water and sewer services because volatility in expenses can lead to volatility in pricing in water rates.

“We try to put as much budget stability in as we can so we can have more stable rates for users,” Hurley said. “We try and anticipate unusual revenues and expenses. Water and sewer in particular can have very wide swings in both.”

As an example, Hurley mentioned that the Danbury plant where Hawleyville’s effluence is processed is planning a $100 million plant upgrade. As Hawleyville is 1% of that plant’s flow, it is responsible for 1% of the plant’s upgrade cost, or approximately $1 million.

“Everyone [in the workgroup] is on the same page,” said Simpson. “If we know what to expect, we can plan for it and optimize the economics.”

Employing Engineers

Simpson said that the engineers who compose the workgroup have been able share ideas about when projects should be done and what needed to be done. With a group of engineers working together, he said, projects have been “better understood and more creative.”

Engineers in the workgroup include Clifford, managing director and chief information officer, First Manhattan Co; Allen Adriani, PE, senior engineer and program manager, Airgas; David Schill, PE, vice president, Mohawk Northeast; and Zach Marchetti, PE, engineer/diver at Marchetti Consulting.

“I want to praise the members for their time, talent, and donation of expertise,” said Simpson, who also didn’t want to diminish the contributions of town staff such as Hurley and Town Engineer Ronald Bolmer. “Everyone has been very busy, very capable, and contributed immensely.”

At a July 14 meeting, the workgroup toured the C.H. Booth Library from basement to attic, as well as the library property. Workgroup members shared stories related to the challenges of having, finding, and preserving facility drawings and documentation.

The group agreed that the town should digitize facility documentation, which can be done inexpensively with available software.

Clifford pointed out that the data structure to index and describe scanned images must be thought out to avoid a project that produces thousands of images that cannot be searched. An image database can and should be linked to the building inventory.

At previous meetings, the group has convened at the town garage and at Reed Intermediate School.

Simpson said that there is a “good bit of overlap” between the workgroup and the Sustainable Energy Commission, which has also been touring buildings.

“We should be able to compare notes,” said Simpson.

The group planned to meet at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Wednesday, August 4. The next scheduled meeting will be Wednesday, August 11. The workgroup first met in March of this year and meets on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month.

Reporter Jim Taylor can be reached at jim@thebee.com.

Newtown’s ad hoc Building Inventory and Planning Workgroup Chair Ned Simpson
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