Finance panel wants tight controls on Riverfield School project
Published 7:03 am, Wednesday, June 6, 2012
In unanimously approving $250,000 in "seed money" for a building committee to plan renovations at Riverfield School, Board of Finance members Tuesday made it clear they expect this project to be a model for planning and execution that others can follow in the future.
"It seems you are going into it with the right attitude," Finance Chairman Thomas Flynn told Thomas Quinn, the Riverfield Building Committee's chairman, and Cristine Messina, the vice chairwoman. "I think it's going to be very important that you do look at some of the other building committees."
Flynn specifically mentioned the Sherman School Building Committee, which was expected to give an update to the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday, as one that has had problems. "We've had some instances where there doesn't seem to have been great communication."
Flynn said he recently took a tour of the renovations now under at Sherman, a project's whose scope was limited because of FEMA flood regulations. "In the administration area there is a cloud ceiling," he said. "It's an architecturally cool thing, but quite frankly, I don't think it was quite the best use of funds, and there has been some discussion over whether that's what the building committee wanted."
Board of Education Chairwoman Pam Iacono, who also is a member of the Sherman Building Committee, said the panel did not want the dropped ceiling. The building committee has not gone over budget, but Iacono said the architectural ceiling means there isn't money for cabinets in the nurse's office.
"Things like that we need to be mindful of," Flynn said.
Quinn said the Riverfield panel will be interviewing four architects on June 19, and will also be issuing a request-for-proposals to hire a so-called "owner's representative" to closely monitor the project, which is designed to expand and renovate the elementary school on Mill Plain Road. Board of Education estimates initially put the project's cost at about $11 million, but Quinn said the building committee is not going in with any preset notions or plans for architectural flourishes.
"I can assure you our intent is not to spend on cool, architectural things," Quinn said. "I'm a pretty hard-nosed practical person."
Finance Vice Chairman Robert Bellitto Jr. said he hopes the Riverfield committee "can become a template for how the work is to be done." He suggested the finance board amend the building committee charge to include language regarding an owner's representative "so it's very clear this is part of the process."
"What you have in front of you is a funding request," Fiscal Officer Paul Hiller told the board. The language in the official charge to the building committee is the purview of the Board of Selectmen and the Representative Town Meeting, he added.
Messina said the committee's goal is to meet 100 percent of the education specifications for the project. Should initial cost estimates come in "out of whack" with the Board of Education estimate, Flynn said he hopes there would be a "meeting of the minds. If it comes in much higher, what is the Board of Ed willing to go without or prioritize?"
Flynn added that he doesn't think that discussion of such issues "always happened in the past."
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