RTMers vent anger over stalled Osborn Hill walkway plan
Published 8:08 am, Tuesday, June 23, 2015
A high price tag has stalled construction of an enclosed walkway at Osborn Hill School, angering some Representative Town Meeting members.
The RTM learned in an update Monday from the Osborn Hill Building Committee that only one bid was received to build a walkway at the Stillson Road elementary school, designed to connect the school’s annex to the main building. The bid of nearly $700,000 exceeds the money available in the committee’s budget, Chairman Kim Marshall told the RTM.
Pamela Iacono, R-9, stepped aside from her moderator’s post Monday to vent her frustrations.
“This body has repeatedly given direction to have this walkway,” Iacono said. “There’s no indignation, there’s major frustration over government failure. This body wasn’t the body that didn’t take the lead.”
The RTM added the enclosed walkway to the $4.5 million project designed to replace windows and doors at the school. The scope of the project expanded when PCBs were discovered in caulking at the school, as well as the gym. The PCBs were remediated and the gym replaced. The windows and doors should be completed in the next two months, Marshall said.
RTM member Bill Gerber, D-4, said the RTM added the walkway “at the last minute” and had been told by the superintendent of schools that it would be included if the budget allowed. It was originally estimated the walkway would cost $70,000 but when the project went out to bid, the cost came in a little more than $400,000 and the feature was abandoned by the committee. The RTM, however, later pressed for its inclusion.
Iacono argued the building committee, however, was guilty of “scope creep,” with the plan’s education specs calling for a full-fledged hallway, not a simple, enclosed walkway.
“This got screwed up from go because of scope creep,” Iacono charged, and “no one picked up on that. That’s what I’m upset about.”
“This body voted to fund this walkway,” Mary McCullough, R-3, said. “It came up in discussion more than two years ago.”
The building committee sought new bids to rebuild the walkway recently. Because the state originally approved a connecting hallway, the bid called for prices on that hallway, as well as the modified enclosed walkway. Just one bid was received — $697,450 for the hallway and $687,450 for the walkway.
Joseph Palmer, R-4, said the building committee did the responsible thing by not going forward with the walkway when its budget ran low. There is about $240,000 remaining in the committee’s funds.
But, he said, the walkway needs to be reinstated and the Board of Education must give education specifications for the new design.
First Selectman Michael Tetreau was asked when the Board of Selectmen, which has been getting regular updates from the building committee, learned about the latest bids. “At what point were you aware?” McCullough asked.
“The $700,000 number just came back about two weeks ago,” Tetreau said, and there has not been an update to the board in that time.
Marshall said that it is possible to rebid the walkway later this year, possibly in the winter, when more contractors will be looking for work.