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East Lyme town officials review construction bids for new police building, select contractor

East Lyme — As town officials step ever closer toward finalizing renovation plans for the new police building, the committee overseeing those plans selected a contractor Thursday night who said renovations could be completed by February 2021 for about $3 million.

The $3 million bid, which includes $743,000 to build out a sally port and holding cells, was submitted to the town last week by Noble Construction & Management of Centerbrook and was the lowest of nine bids for renovations in the 30,000-square-foot-building at 277 West Main St. Noble has completed projects for Yale University and Connecticut College, as well as the Region 18 school district, and was part of the town's elementary schools renovation project completed last fall and "performed very well," Town Building Committee Chairman Ray O'Connor said during Thursday's meeting, which was virtual.

The bid does not include $198,000 estimated to install an elevator cab, though town officials have the option to add that in. It also doesn't include other costs associated with the project, such as the $2.77 million spent to purchase the building last spring; up to $500,000 in information technology infrastructure; a $40,000 estimate to eventually hook up the building to public water; more than $100,000 in architect fees; a clerk of the works; contingency costs and other miscellaneous items, such as building permit fees.

Contracted architects Silver/Petrucelli + Associates, who have been working closely with town officials for months to complete renovation plans, estimated in February that the total cost of the project would fall somewhere around $6.6 million — $1.6 million more than the $5 million initially allotted to the project by the Board of Finance in early 2019.

“We are up somewhere over $6 million,” Public Safety Building Vision Committee Chairman Paul Dagle said during the meeting. “But we don’t know the final number tonight.”

The vision committee, which has been overseeing the planning, will pull together the costs of the remaining items to be included in the project and review final costs at a meeting next week before voting to move the project to the boards of selectmen and finance for final approval and to request additional appropriations.

The town has until the end of August to sign a contract with Noble, and may change elements within the project’s scope to further bring down costs before doing so, Dagle said.

“Right now, I don’t think our committee wants to cut (from the scope of work), but until we have everything down in front of them, I can’t speak for the committee,” he said by phone Friday. “We are satisfied with the scope of work we want to recommend. There is a strong sense of what we want to provide for the building, and I think there is support from both (the boards of selectmen and finance) that we don’t need to come in on the cheap for this. We want to have a professional, functional facility for our public safety organizations.”

When First Selectman Mark Nickerson first presented the idea to purchase and renovate the former Honeywell Building into a public safety facility, in Fall 2018, he expected it to cost $6 million based on estimates he and a task force obtained from experts before unveiling the plan.

The Board of Finance agreed in early 2019 to allot only $5 million, which voters later approved at referendum, to purchase and renovate the building with the idea that a sally port and holding cells — then estimated by Nickerson to cost $1 million — could possibly be held out to save money. Nickerson assured concerned taxpayers at an election debate last October that costs for the project still would come in on budget after architects presented a preliminary $5.8 million price estimate for renovations.

Architect William Silver later publicly described that $5.8 million figure as the first phase of a multiple-step process between architects and the vision committee.

Since then, the vision committee, which consists of selectmen, Board of Finance members, Police Commission members, police Chief Mike Finkelstein and residents, has worked to bring costs within budget while maintaining a quality building promised to taxpayers and police. Plans show the entirety of the project will be contained to the first floor of the building, leaving the second floor to possibly be utilized by other town departments in the future.

“I think we’ve tweaked the design several times along the way so the (future) occupants have agreed with it and the vision committee has agreed with it. The final design as presented by the architects is going to be a very good facility to meet the needs of East Lyme’s public safety organizations,” Dagle said by phone Friday. “I’m very thankful and appreciative of the work that the vision committee members and the town staff have gotten us to at this point.”

m.biekert@theday.com

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