Good news, more bad news on Penfield Pavilion project

FEMA has deemed the Penfield Pavilion project eligible for full replacement, but bids for the project have come in over the $6 million budget.
FEMA has deemed the Penfield Pavilion project eligible for full replacement, but bids for the project have come in over the $6 million budget.Genevieve Reilly / Fairfield Citizen

There was good news and bad news this week on the years-long efforts to reopen Penfield Pavilion, shuttered nearly three years ago after Superstorm Sandy battered the beachfront structure in October 2012.

And more bad news may be in the offing as another delay looms in reconstructing the pavilion, despite federal aid.

The good news came from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which town officials said has sanctioned the project as eligible for full replacement. That means, according to First Selectman Michael Tetreau, the town will be eligible for the cost of replacing the pavilion to “its pre-disaster design, capacity and use, in accordance with current building codes and standards. FEMA will contribute 75 percent of that cost after any applicable deductions for insurance settlements or other insurance related FEMA programmatic requirements.”

The town will contribute 25 percent of the replacement cost, the value of its insurance settlement and “any other deductions made for insurance related FEMA programmatic requirements,” Tetreau said. The town has received $1.75 million from its insurance carrier and a $500,000 grant from the state, which will go toward paying its share of construction costs.

The bad news, however, arose when officials learned that bids — even after being solicited a second time — to rebuild the pavilion have come in well over the $6 million budget.

The current version of the reconstruction plan would move the structure’s west wing off the footings, and demolish the east wing of lockers. After the footings and foundations were improved, the structure would be moved back in place and a new, smaller wing of lockers built.

That work was supposed to start in mid-July, but when the bids for the project were opened last month the building committee learned they tallied $1.3 million over the $6 million approved for the project.

“It is a disappointment,” Penfield Building Committee Chairman Jim Bradley said, “but we’ve got to keep moving.”

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October 2012: Superstorm Sandy slams shoreline, undermining Penfield Pavilion.

November 2012: Serious damage to the structure is assessed and the facility is closed to the public.

August 2013: Public meeting on pavilion is held to hear residents' opinions on the pavilion's future.

October 2013: Board of Selectmen create the Penfield Building Committee.

November 2013: Board of Selectmen and Representative Town Meeting approve appointments to the building committee.

December 2013: Building committee holds its first meeting. It meets 22 times in 2014, hearing 11 different presentations and reviewing 11 different options for the pavilion's future.

November 2014: After approval of $4.6 million project is approved by the selectmen, it is sent to the Board of Finance. The finance board takes no action, sending plan back to the building committee to reconsider adding a locker wing, bumping construction costs to $6 million.

November 2014: Building committee approves addition of locker wing and resubmits $6 million request to the Board of Selectmen, which meets the next day and approves the new plan.

January 2015: After being listed three times on the Board of Finance agenda, the Penfield reconstruction plan is approved.

February 2015: RTM approves the $6 million plan.

July 2015: Bids for project are opened and come in $1.3 million over the $6 million approved budget.

August 2015: Project is re-bid. FEMA determines the damage to Penfield exceeds 50 percent and is considered a full replacement project, eligible for up to 75 percent of costs.

Four of the project’s trade packages were re-bid, and those bids were opened Tuesday. A cursory review, strictly using the low bid for each, shows the new bids reduce the overall cost by about $800,000. That, however, is still over budget. Bradley, however, said the committee does not plan to go back to town boards for additional money.

The building committee is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Education Center to discuss what cost savings may be found to bring the project within budget, and get an update on the FEMA decision from Fiscal Officer Robert Mayer.

Tetreau would also like the committee to at least cost out another option of tearing down the existing building, and constructing a completely new facility.

“You’re looking at about $7.5 million,” Tetreau said, taking account of the approved budget and the early bids that came in higher than expected. “It only cost us $4.7 million to build it. It would seem that we would have to at least look at knocking it down and rebuilding it, if it would be cost effective.”

Tetreau said he’s encouraged the committee to at least review that information before moving forward.

Should the committee decide to adopt a new plan, that would require once again securing approvals from the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and the Representative Town Meeting. That could take months, calling into question whether the pavilion would be able to reopen next summer.

If the committee can find enough savings to move forward on the approved plan within its budget, Bradley expects that construction could be completed in time for the summer of 2016 depending, of course, on the weather.

Despite the setbacks, and the many hours spent in meetings, Bradley remains undeterred about the goal of reopening a new, improved Penfield Pavilion.

“We’ll get it done, and we’ll do it right,” Bradley said.