High school renovation plan cut back

Fans of the Berlin High School expansion and renovation plan have been dealt a blow by the news that several cuts must be made to the preliminary designs presented for referendum. The estimate presented to the public building commission in December indicated that building costs would exceed the budget of $69.95 million by $4 million.

Among the cuts is the science wing addition, one of the most compelling features of the project.

Apparently, the feasibility study prepared by Silver Petrucelli and Associates for the March 2011 referendum was based on the original design drawings of the high school from the 1950s and not “as built” drawings, leading to a significant discrepancy in the square footage of the high school footprint.

Estimates depend on the amount of square footage so that the miscalculation had an immediate impact. According to Public Works Director Art Simonian, the town did not possess a copy of the “as built” plans from the 1950s and did not undertake a costly new survey because it was not clear that the project would ever go forward. Silver and Petrucelli conducted a survey in the fall of 2011 after the referendum had been passed. The “as-built” drawings recently were found in the high school building.

The square footage is also an important factor in calculating the rate of state reimbursement. As it stands, the existing footprint of the high school exceeds the limits for maximum reimbursement, and for this reason it is more palatable to eliminate the addition.

“We may not have them in the science wing,” said Mayor Adam Salina, “but we are going to have brand new science classrooms.”

Silver and Petrucelli and Associates, who declined to comment on this story, submitted a revised plan in January which locates the science classrooms in the southwest corner of the building. The entire second floor and part of the first floor had to be redesigned to accommodate the changes. The science labs will be smaller and several departments will lose one or two classrooms; the amphitheater and several storage rooms will be eliminated and other spaces will be relocated or reduced in size.

According to Simonian, there is no additional cost for altering the plans. To date, Silver and Petrucelli and Associates have been paid nearly $340,000 for its services.

Construction managers, FIP Construction of Farmington, presented a new estimate of nearly $60 million for the total construction costs based on the revised plans (not including several other fees). FIP calculated that the project will take 36 months to complete, and will include a swing space to allow construction to continue during the school year.

Salina expects remediation efforts to begin this summer. “We have had a slight delay, but we are still in the design phase and bids were not expected to go out until the end of the year, anyway. In the end, we will have a beautiful new high school within our budget,” he said.

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