North Stonington eyes metal building as affordable alternative for emergency services facility

North Stonington - After a few design changes, the Emergency Services Building Committee should be able to propose a building that is under budget and meets all the town's needs, according to First Selectman Nicholas Mullane.

"We now feel we can achieve budget," he said, and "still have all the functions, within reason, for what we need to do. This is a big improvement."

The committee's decision to switch to a metal building rather than the conventional building proposed by the architecture firm Silver/Petrucelli is expected to result in a significant savings in cost per square foot, said Mullane during Tuesday's Board of Selectmen meeting, although an official estimate is not yet available.

A $245,400 Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant for a water line that would extend from Town Hall to the building site has also lowered the cost, Mullane said.

Some people may think of metal buildings as an eyesore, but Mullane said that with some of the add-ons offered by companies like Morton Buildings - an Illinois organization that the Emergency Services Building Committee has met with - the structures can be "very handsome."

Mullane said the town "understood (Silver/Petrucelli) to say" during the initial planning that a 24,000-square-foot traditional building could be constructed within the committee's $6.3 million budget.

But as the committee went through the design process, the square footage kept decreasing and the building cost stayed stubbornly over budget - by $2.4 million in the worst-case scenario, Mullane said.

"We're having a little bit of a learning experience," Mullane explained. He said the committee asked Silver/Petrucelli about a metal building multiple times but that the firm was pushing for a structure with a longer life.

But when the numbers for the original building weren't working out, the committee began to research metal structures on its own.

Committee members discovered that a roof on a Morton building is guaranteed to last for 50 years, and the siding for 30 years, Mullane said. The company also offers aesthetic upgrades such as stone siding, gables and cupolas.

During Tuesday's selectman meeting, Selectman Bob Testa said he wasn't opposed to a metal building but asked whether the committee is "picking an option to meet a budget number, or is it going to meet their needs long-term?"

Mullane assured Testa that the committee has done its research, and that a metal building appears to be the best way to go.

The town is still, however, "getting a little push-back" from Silver/Petrucelli on the plan for a metal building, Mullane said, because the firm does not believe it is the best fit for the town's needs.

"I don't think the town would have any problem with the appearance, quality, style or long-life of this," Mullane said, referring to the metal buildings.

Testa said he would like to see more updates from the Emergency Services Building Committee in the near future so the selectmen can learn more about the changes.

Selectman Mark Donahue agreed, saying the committee "should be coming in monthly and giving an update."

But Mullane said the committee may not be able to present the information Testa and Donahue are looking for because it is still waiting on a report from the architecture firm on how the inside of the building would be constructed. That is one of the pieces of information that's holding up an official cost estimate.

"I think it's getting dragged out," Mullane said of the Silver/Petrucelli's work, "and I'm not happy."

Testa echoed Mullane's frustration.

"We can't keep saying to people, 'We don't know,'" he said.

k.catalfamo@theday.com

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