Auditorium, security upgrades among alternates added back to LHS project

Auditorium, security upgrades among alternates added back to LHS project

Steel rises up on the new addition to Lincoln High School during April vacation week. (Breeze photo by Nicole Dotzenrod)

LINCOLN – Lincoln taxpayers will be asked to approve the transfer of $1,034,138 from the town’s excess casino revenue fund to help bring the cost of the Lincoln High School construction/renovation back in line with the project budget.

That money will pay for additional security measures, as well as new theatrical lighting, sound equipment and seating for the school’s auditorium.

The decision to ask taxpayers’ permission to move additional funds from the Gaming Reserve Fund to Capital Fund #50 for use on the high school project was one of several made by the LHS Building Committee this month in an effort to rectify the project budget.

With 90 to 95 percent of the bids in, the project was running $1.6 million to $1.7 million over estimate in early April.

Last May, the committee approved more than $3 million in alternates, or potential budget cuts that could be added back at a later date. Michael O’Connell, who chairs the project’s budget subcommittee, said the time to make decisions on the list of alternates has come.

“It’s do or die,” he told the committee.

The only two add-backs contingent on taxpayer approval at this year’s Financial Town Meeting are the security upgrades to windows, which would cost $96,462, and roughly $937,000 for the auditorium lighting, sound and equipment – though later estimates for the latter came in much higher than previously expected at $1.2 million.

Members of the committee and town officials said the increase in the cost to upgrade the auditorium was difficult to understand, considering the initial estimate was half of the current one.

“It’s hard to stomach a 100 percent increase,” said Michael Babbitt, member of the building committee. “We started at $600,000. We went to the Town Council and got approved for $900,000 to get this project done, and now it’s $1.2 million.”

Arthur Russo, town councilor and co-chairman of the building committee, said the construction/design team has to go back to the drawing board. “We cannot ask the taxpayers for $900,000 for the auditorium and have someone say – isn’t it $1.2 million? It just can’t be done.”

Representatives from the construction company Gilbane Inc. and architect firm SMMA said there was no perfect answer for why initial estimates came in so low, but said the team “owes you an answer and a scope that’s in line with your budget.”

Town Administrator Joe Almond asked how the scope was expanded so far to begin with, knowing there were budget constraints on the project. “Why give us things that aren’t in this budget? I’m beginning to question what we’re paying for. That’s a lot of money for soft costs and the answers we’re getting are really lousy.”

SMMA’s Joel Seeley said, “If we’re charged with getting that $1.2 million into a $937,000 package, we’ll do it.”

Items that will be added back into the project budget that are not contingent on this year’s FTM include:

• $90,000 to restore higher-grade floor and ceiling finishes near the school’s entryways. Originally estimated at $439,097, the committee opted to upgrade the floors only in certain high traffic areas and to use cheaper materials elsewhere.

• $315,794 to load and haul the soil stockpile in front of the school to Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation in Johnston.

Several deductions were made to the scope of other pieces of the project to cut costs, including:

• Changing the lighting in the media and dining centers to save $72,337.

• Deleting the re-roofing of the east side of the school’s 1963 building, saving an estimated $511,430.

• Eliminating a canopy over a rear entrance to the school for $34,434.

Though they debated eliminating the addition of “reveals” in the new masonry walls to break up the building facade, the committee ultimately voted to keep the reveals for $16,195.

“I don’t want to say: I wonder what it would have looked like with them,” said DPW Director Michael Gagnon.

Voting to keep the brickwork in the project budget, Almond said, “We’re not building a mill, we’re building a public building.”

The committee approved an even longer list of alternates that they will not be adding back into the project to save money. Those cuts include more than $170,000 in landscaping work, an outdoor classroom for $140,354 and a new roof for the auditorium for $126,859. The roof was last upgraded in 2013.

The big picture

The committee won’t have to resort to as drastic measures as maintaining the school’s 1996 wing as it is currently, an option that would have saved $1.3 million if deemed necessary. Another option to save half a million dollars by reusing the existing windows in the 1993 wing was also eliminated.

With all of the changes made, the project is roughly $200,000 over budget as of April 11.

One month prior, the committee reported that the project was running approximately $768,000 overestimate.

When Almond asked the construction/design team whether the committee was at a comfortable place where they could stop trying to value engineer the project and try to move forward, Construction Manager Charles Roberts of Colliers said there are “potential hazards, but that’s what the contingency is for.”

Roberts said the total construction contingency was $2.1 million.

Asked by The Valley Breeze whether the $910,000 for furniture and equipment and $860,000 for technology had been added back into the project, Russo said they were “relying on the (construction) contingency.”

Committee co-chair Julie Zito said those items can be added back later, but that it was crunch time to make decisions on the alternates discussed last week.

School Committee member Mary Anne Roll said she feels the project is in a good place now, adding that the Lincoln Middle School project “didn’t include this level of discussion with this many people.”

She continued, “I want this story – where we are now – to be part of the public record. A lot of hard work has been done to get here.”

Comments

$937,000 for auditorium lighting, sound, and equipment? Am I reading this correctly?

This is what happens when "committee members" begin to think that they are "architects and engineers". The only people that seem to be truly concerned and are trying to ring the bell are Administrator Almond and Chairman Babbitt. Does it not mean ANYTHING when a company or contractor presents a bid with regard to integrity? Unless there are legitimate "change orders" why are these contractors not held to their awarded bids? This is not a feel good project, this is sixty-plus million dollar (and climbing) Lincoln Senior High School building project which will be expected to serve the taxpayers for decades to come! It is ironic that one of the items on the chopping block is the original high school building roof replacement and yet the $937,000 for 'sound and lighting". Why, so the Lincoln School Committee can come back to the taxpayers next year crying that they need five Million dollars for a new roof and replacement of everything below it that had been destroyed?
We as taxpayers have already agreed to over a million dollar supplement 15 months ago, just where does it stop? Perhaps the building committee should shop for window fashions and allow Mr Almond and Mr Babbitt to keep this train on the tracks before is too late!

This is what happens when "committee members" begin to think that they are "architects and engineers". The only people that seem to be truly concerned and are trying to ring the bell are Administrator Almond and Chairman Babbitt. Does it not mean ANYTHING when a company or contractor presents a bid with regard to integrity? Unless there are legitimate "change orders" why are these contractors not held to their awarded bids? This is not a feel good project, this is sixty-plus million dollar (and climbing) Lincoln Senior High School building project which will be expected to serve the taxpayers for decades to come! It is ironic that one of the items on the chopping block is the original high school building roof replacement and yet the $937,000 for 'sound and lighting". Why, so the Lincoln School Committee can come back to the taxpayers next year crying that they need five Million dollars for a new roof and replacement of everything below it that had been destroyed?
We as taxpayers have already agreed to over a million dollar supplement 15 months ago, just where does it stop? Perhaps the building committee should shop for window fashions and allow Mr Almond and Mr Babbitt to keep this train on the tracks before is too late!

almost 1.1 million additional requested what happened to the not over budget as reported a few months back. Tip of the iceberg Lincoln taxpayers there will be more. Many of the same cast of characters that added and added to the middle school. Over spending(budget) now being reported. Glad I am out of the whole state of RI. Spend and tax nothing changes.

Some of us weren’t even Serving when this cluster started. Let me explain the other side as I believe candidness is very important, especially to taxpayers. We can’t just give one side, that’s irresponsible and counterproductive to our common goal. We’re a team.

Thank you to everyone on this project for recognizing this was important to get back. We have a tight budget and I still firmly believe that if the School Bond was closer to $70 million instead of getting approval for $60 million, we wouldn’t be in this position today. We would have minor challenges, not major ones. I’m not an engineer or an architect, just a very attentive taxpayer. I’m sure taxpayers are appreciative that whenever misjudgments are made by appointed committees, elected officials, and architects it’s gets fixed down the road. I sure am.

Here is another one coming. Taxpayers approved the bond and a newly expanded gym was promised. However, that was taken away too. Just think; a 1950’s small, mildewed, and outdated gymnasium, an approved $60 million-dollar bond and taxpayers get a 1950’s gymnasium for our kids in return. Where’s Big Fish on that one? Hiding under a rock in the deep sea.

I am looking forward to the Phase II application, and hopefully, our Athletes can have a Physical Education Center that all Community Members can utilize.

Respectfully,

John Picozzi
Lincoln School Committee

Let us not forget that extending SMMA's contract from RIDE Stage 1 to 2 or 2 to 3 was illegal, and Lincoln was found in violation of the APRA by the AG when they tried to hide it. If the town had abided by the state and federal laws, we could have saved nearly enough in soft costs to cover the overage in construction budget, but the LHS building committee and town council voted to supersede the law (I assume since that vote is not reflected in public records ... see statement above). As much as I am not a political or personal fan of the Administrator, I applaud Joe Almond and Mike Babbitt for trying to right the sinking ship. SMMA, though not bad at their job in general, has failed Lincoln so far. There is no possible way of getting $1.2 million into a $937,000 package, and a cost estimate that was 100% off is not acceptable. And please please please NEVER rely on the contingency. This project is turning worse than even I had anticipated! Why is RIDE not coming down on SMMA, Gilbane, and Lincoln like they are meant to?