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Planning Begins For Hawley School HVAC Work



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With deadlines looming so that work can begin in summer when school is out, the town has chosen Downes Construction Company of New Britain as the construction project manager for the Hawley School HVAC project.

Voters approved the project at referendum on November 2.

First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said that choosing Downes, who was the preconstruction project manager, will save time so that work can begin in the window of time of the school's summer break.

"We have a tight time frame," said Ronsenthal. "They already have bid packages prepared."

Additionally, Downes is waiving a $16,000 fee for procurement services.

Normally, the town would go through a Request For Quotes (RFQ) bid process, but Rosenthal said that there would be challenges if the town followed that procedure. Rosenthal wondered if there would be many responses right before the holidays. He also believed that while Downes had a bid package ready to go, an RFQ process would take until next year and the winner of the RFQ "would likely be Downes."

Purchasing Agent Rick Spreyer also recommended the town not issue an RFQ. The town's purchasing process does allow that to be waived.

"I have a feeling we'd just end up in the same place [in terms of cost]," said Rosenthal. "It'd be a risk to the project budget and timeframe. We have a lot riding on moving forward and hitting our window of time. Missing the window is probably not in the best interests of the taxpayers."

Rosenthal said he was "satisfied we're hiring a competent construction manager," and that in terms of fees, Downes is "in line with what we were expecting." He said that in an RFQ process it is not just who has the lowest fee, but a balance of who can do the best job at the best fee.

"This will keep the trains running on time and gave me a level of comfort moving forward this way," the first selectman said.

Spreyer said the town had the opportunity to hire Downes for the entirety of the project, which he recommended since they have an "intimate knowledge of the designs" as well as doing the budget and working with the architect.

"If we hired someone else, we'd have to go through the RFQ process, and the new design firm would have to get familiar with the design drawings," said Spreyer. "We wouldn't get to bid until late January or early February." Hiring Downes, he said, "made the most sense to move the project forward on a timely basis."

Spreyer also noted the town has a good relationship Downes, having worked with the company before, and with Project Executive Jeff Anderson.

"We've worked with Downes on the permanent memorial, which has been on budget and on time," said Spreyer. "They have a good track record and have already put a ton of work in."

At a November 23 Public Buildings and Site Commission meeting, members of the commission pushed Downes to move forward its timetable for bids due to concerns about available of construction supplies and equipment due to supply chain shortages. Project Manager Michael Dell'Accio believed that Downes could go out to bid for subcontractors to do the work by early January.

"We're going out to bid early, that leaves lots of time to procure materials and equipment," Dell'Accio said.

PBSC Chairman Art Norton asked if it were possible to have bid documents ready before the holidays so that any site walks by contractors looking to bid could be conducted over the Christmas and New Year's holiday break. Dell'Accio replied that it could be done.

Project Designer Christopher Williams of Chris Williams Architects expressed concern, however, saying that some contractors may not be available to do site walks over the holidays and asked that a second site walk window also be set.

"We'll cut it close but it can be done," said Dell'Accio.

PBSC member Gus Brennan expressed concerns about the lead time to acquire equipment and supplies being up to six months.

"We should consider prepurchase for some with long lead times," said Brennan.

Rosenthal asked if Dell'Accio could prepare "at least a rough schedule" so that if some contractor bids come in that are over what is budgeted the town has time to send them back out to bid.

"I'm a little concerned if we wind up with a surprise and don't have any time to fix it," Rosenthal said. "We have a window that we have to hit."

Rosenthal said that once a schedule is sent, bids will go out and then site walks will be done. When the bids come in, Downes will review bids to see if they all meet the project scope.

Preliminary subcontractor bids will be due by January 10, with a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) ideally to be set by the end of January, said Rosenthal. The GMP will include the contingency and soft costs, and "establishes everything."

"I feel we're in a good position right now," said Rosenthal. "We have six months but don't want to squander the time we have."

Rosenthal said he always feels "a bit nervous" until all the bids come in.

"I'm confident we're in a good spot," he said, although he also added "you never know" until all bids are looked at.

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

The town is gearing up to begin work on the HVAC system at Hawley School. The town approved the project at referendum on November 2.—Bee file photo
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