Another Penfield twist: FEMA formula could mean less aid for rebuild
Published 6:23 am, Friday, August 21, 2015
What was hailed as good news appears to have thrown another a monkey wrench into the Penfield Building Committee’s plans for repairing Superstorm Sandy-damaged Penfield Pavilion.
On Wednesday, First Selectman Michael Tetreau announced the Federal Emergency Management Agency had determined that storm damage to the shorefront structure exceeded 50 percent, making it eligible for “replacement” project costs, with up to 75 percent federal reimbursement for both construction and hazard mitigation costs.
But at a special meeting Thursday night, building committee members found themselves not only dealing with bids on the job that came in over the $6 million budget, but since plans call for reusing the pavilion’s west wing, it might not be considered a replacement project by FEMA. That could affect the size of reimbursement the town receives from FEMA.
Meanwhile, representatives of Shawmut, the construction manager, told the committee that $171,360 has been whittled from the project costs to bring it within $180,334 of the $6 million budget, and its staff is confident if given another two weeks they could find enough additional savings to match the budget. They also believe if costs can be reduced to the budget amount, work could start soon and the pavilion could reopen to the public by mid-July of next summer — the first time since it was closed by storm damage in October 2012.
“I’ve seen a lot of building projects come through,” committee member Robert Bellitto Jr. said. “I’ve never see a project held hostage by reimbursement.”
“You do a project because it’s the right thing for the town,” Bellitto said, “and reimbursement is not the driving piece.”
He said if the building committee decided that the safest way to maximize the FEMA reimbursement was to tear down the existing building and construct an entirely new pavilion, the entire planning process and approvals from town boards would have to start from scratch.
“Do we want a pavilion next year or do we want a pavilion a couple of years from now?” Bellitto asked.
Committee member Andrew Graceffa said the group’s charge was to repair and replace the pavilion.
“We find ourselves in an unusual situation, which is typical for this project,” Chairman James Bradley said.
In additon to the option of building an entirely new pavilion, he noted, is to sharply cut the cost of the existing plan by reduccing the scope of the project. That also, he said, would require going back through the approval process.
Bradley and other building committee members also questioned the estimates provided by Shawmut for options that include cutting the locker wing completely or reducing the number of lockers.
Committee member Jane Nelson said the plan is to take a damaged building, move it, and then move it back again. “Now we have an opportunity to look at getting something brand new,” Nelson said. “We’ve waited this long, I think it’s worth looking at.”
Nelson used the analogy of a car that is repaired after being damaged in an accident, but afterward is not as reliable as a new car.
“You have a good point as far as long-term risks,” Bradley said.
The committee instructed Shawmut to come back in two weeks with additional cuts to the existing plans and better cost estimates for the scaled-back plans.
The committee also asked for a conceptual estimate for a completely new building from the engineering firm of DeStefano and Chamberlain.