Architect's sketch of the proposed public safety building

Higher Cost for Norwich Public Safety Building

Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Lee Michaelides

Latest Estimate Is More Than Proposed Bond

The Norwich Selectboard grappled Wednesday night with a piece of bad news—a revised estimate for the public safety building turns out to be $73,802 higher than the $1.4 million that the board approved for bonding on August 24. The increase is a result of math errors discovered by Interim Town Manager Dave Ormiston in the earlier estimate. The people preparing the original estimate were not using the same datasheets, Ormiston explained.

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While the increased cost was a disappointment to the board, it isn't a deal-breaker, as the project hasn't gone out to bid. Both estimates contain money for unforeseen costs and it is possible that the contingency money may not be needed.  Ormiston outlined six different ways the board could fund the shortfall should the bond be approved on November 4. Of the six plans Ormiston proposed, he preferred three and recommended the first option.

1) Use the fund balance to offset the project costs. (Norwich carries 16 percent of its budget to fund shortfalls during the year. The actual fund balance at the end of FY 16 is larger than earlier projections.)
2) Borrow from the balance fund. (The town would budget a payback to the fund over a number of years.)
3) Use an accumulation of funds that are lying dormant or would apply to this project. (For example there is about $17,000 in a fire station fund that could apply to this project. There's also about $31,000 in unspent bond funds from the tower project.)

The board didn't make a decision about how to fund the shortfall at the Wednesday meeting. More critical to them is selling the concept to the voters -- which is complicated by the fact that the board, once again, is not unanimous in its support of the bond. Board members Christopher Ashley and Mary Layton had a public disagreement on the Norwich listserv on September 15, and these disagreements carried over to the board's meeting that evening.

Ashley took to the listserv first, writing, "The cost of the proposal was not correctly calculated, the environmental impact of the water run-off from the proposed parking lot was not clarified, the proposed building does not provide adequate space for current or future needs, and the process to approve the proposed design has been, in my opinion, a race to the bottom with little opportunity for public input." (click here for his full post)

"I think these comments would have been more appropriate and helpful to the Select Board discussion at our upcoming meeting if they had been included in the packet," Layton replied on the listserv. "As it stands this is a reasoned argument by one member only, shared with the large number of list serve subscribers. If three or more of us weighed in on the list serve it would be an unearned meeting."

Ashley's and Layton's posts then prompted comments from Claudette Brochu, John Farrell and Kris Clement.

The upshot is that the decision the board made on August 24 to eliminate 11 parking spaces to save about $100,000 came back under discussion Wednesday night. WIth that reopened discussion came concerns about the impact the larger parking lot would have on the senior housing project and the run-off of water to neighboring properties. Since the board felt it needed more information, it asked Ormiston to invite architect Jay White to come to the board's September 28 meeting. 


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