Waterford municipal complex project pushes forward

Waterford — A renovation project in the works for more than a decade has evolved into a fresh set of plans for a new $11.7 million municipal complex.

Unveiled Wednesday night and working its way through town committees over the coming months, the project entails site remediation, demolition of dilapidated structures at 1000 Hartford Turnpike and construction of a new 53,500-square-foot facility to house offices and the town garage.

Officials put previous renovation efforts on hold multiple times over the years as the town prioritized school construction projects. In late 2016, the project hit snags with a previous architect suffering financial challenges, and last year the town held off while awaiting word on the availability of state aid.

Initial renovation estimates were in the neighborhood of $12 million, but officials say they can erect a new facility for roughly the same price while fully remediating contamination and better protecting the Department of Public Works' dozens of vehicles.

"Right now we're at a point where we think we have some pretty good information and we're hoping this all can flow together," First Selectman Dan Steward said in an interview Wednesday. "The staff and committee have worked really hard to put this together. This has been a challenge for us. It's not something that's been easy by any means."

Last spring, Glastonbury-based Anchor Engineering took the reins on a new design, which was presented Wednesday at a special joint meeting of the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Finance and the Municipal Complex Improvements Building Committee.

Glenn Patterson of the building committee said the current structure is in poor condition and not fully utilized, with "inefficient, awkward layouts" creating limited space for vehicles, and "compliant, but not optimum" standards with regard to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Patterson added that town staff and Anchor Engineering have worked to make the site compliant with state remediation requirements. But full environmental remediation — including the removal of 8,200 cubic yards of contaminated soil — would cost approximately $1.5 million.

Steward and Patterson noted officials identified problems with the now more-than-50-year-old facility in the early 2000s. Oil leaks, safety problems and other basic code violations have been resolved through minor repairs over the years, but officials say the site continues to deteriorate.

Board of Finance Chairman Ron Fedor questioned whether a new facility housing DPW vehicles was worth the investment, considering the vehicles "spend so much time outside in bad weather" already.

"When I look at this dollar figure, it's a lot of money," he said.

Steward said reducing salt damage would help vehicles last longer, which was "one of the benefits we'd have keeping them in a clean environment."

Fedor suggested the committee conduct further analysis of whether other towns who've built or renovated similar facilities have seen improved durability for their vehicles.

Prompted by questions from Board of Finance member Bill Sheehan, Patterson and Anchor Engineering project manager Marek Kement said the new design created adequate space for vehicles and office workers along with improved safety, security and storage accommodations.

Steward said there's a variety of funding sources available, including some capital improvement funds, bonding and unassigned fund balance that generally "we don't like to touch."

"We have to figure out how much it's going to cost ... and decide how much do you borrow," he said, noting officials would discuss funding options over the next few months as the project goes before the Planning and Zoning and Conservation commissions, Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and Representative Town Meeting.  

In addition to remediation costs, the designs included estimates of $1.8 million in Waterford Utilities Commission and DPW office space; $1 million for DPW vehicle maintenance bays and shops; $3.5 million-plus for the DPW garage, vehicle wash bay and refuse truck storage canopy; almost $1 million in site work excluding remediation; and almost $2.5 million on a range of expenses including cost escalation, construction administration, traffic protection, engineering fees and electrical service.

Demolition costs are estimated at $381,000, but that figure excludes asbestos abatement, which the committee will research in the coming weeks.

b.kail@theday.com

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