Town Hall North South Scheme Favored
NEWINGTON - The Town Hall Project Building Committee is closing in on more definitive figures for a staff relocation, as they lean further toward a North/South site alignment for the blueprint.

       The Committee voted unanimously to instruct Principal Architect Thomas Arcari-of Quisenberry Arcari Architects, LLC-to focus on establishing more specific space and cost estimates for the North/South alignment, an option that moves the building closer to Mill Pond Park and is thought to be more favorable to Parks and Recreation programming overall.

       That was after they heard from Facilities Director David Langdon, who presented some updated cost estimates for tentative offsite locations, while admitting that the cost of the relocation itself is less than certain.

       Langdon has examined the possibility of moving building staff-using modular trailers-to the former State Hospital property on Russell Road, which the town would be able to utilize for free. A challenge would be determining the cost of utilities, which could escalate if they have to install transformers, Langdon said.

       But the town would have to run its own fiber optic line, and the sewer lines are in Wethersfield, Langdon said. He said that he still needs to reach out to MDC for cost estimates to link them to the line, as well as usage rates.

       Even without lease payments, the trailer purchase and installation alone would run the town for $1.2 million to $1.5 million, he said. An April 2018 construction date-with preparation taking place over the winter-is part of that calculation, he said. Langdon noted that the last Committee had earmarked $2 million for relocation costs, suggesting that expenses in this area could easily climb that high.

       Then there’s the Hartford Hospital property off Cedar Street, which could also come at no lease cost, but with a $400,000 parking lot installation prompted by owners asking that the site’s existing spaces be left available to employees, Langdon said.

       He indicated that he’d like to see if the owners would be willing to assist with the cost of adding the lot.

       As for the North/South alignment-previously billed to land around $25 million-updated construction cost figures have that at $25.7 million before soft costs, which Arcari characterized as a direct result of a later referendum. The Committee had been hoping to hold that this June, but recent escalations in cost projections have moved that back to November as architects look for further savings.

       “Now that we’re potentially talking referendum at the end of the year, there’s a significant amount of escalation. There’s $750,000 in escalation in there,” Arcari said.

       Committee member and Town Councilor Jim Marocchini said that he likes the North/South approach, but expressed concern regarding the potential for Parks and Recreation programs to be shut down for the duration of the project if the work prompts a full relocation of Town Hall departments and staff.

       An East/West alignment was previously pegged at around $24.9 million-before soft costs-by allowing the demolition and reconstruction to be done without moving staff offsite. The work would start with taking down the portion of Town Hall closest to the police station and housing town employees in what remains.

Staff would then shift to the newly construction portion in time to rebuild the remainder of the building. But with the same November referendum driven cost escalation, the East/West scheme, too, would come in at around $25.7 million for construction, Arcari and consultants from Downes Construction said.

With the envisioned footprint around 72,000 square feet-above the target 70,000-Arcari admitted that there isn’t much room to shrink it further.

       “If think if we start trying to squeeze the program space we’ll start compromising the functionality of the building,” Arcari said. “If we’re going to make it any smaller, something will have to go.”