2014-10-10 / Front Page

Firms have four weeks to figure out project cost

Discrepency in school renovation plans is about $8.6 million
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — The Regional School Unit 21 Board of Directors voted to authorize Harriman Architects + Engineers and Consigli Construction to reconcile a difference of approximately $8.6 million in the total estimated cost to renovate Mildred L. Day School, Kennebunkport Consolidated School and Kennebunk High School.

Since the discrepancy was found, both firms have offered to work at no cost for the next four weeks to align the project with the district’s $58.6 million goal.

With the exception of Lionel Menard, board members voted to authorize the reconciliation.

Representatives from both firms will present “a scope of work, construction drawings and associated budgets for each of the three projects,” at the board meeting on Monday, Nov. 3, said Superintendent Kevin Crowley at the Oct. 5 meeting.

The board had previously estimated, with the expertise of Harriman, that the total renovation cost would be no more than $58.6 million. Calculating the revised numbers, the proposed renovation plans are estimated at approximately $67 million.

Recognizing the figure is too high, the board voted unanimously in late September not to present the project to voters until June.

The $8.6 million gap was discovered by representatives of Consigli, the construction manager who was hired earlier this summer.

The four significant differences in Harriman’s and Consigli’s estimates lie in the following areas: “bricks and mortar,” (trade cost), and the overhead cost (non-trade cost) of the projects total approximately $4.5 million more than Harriman estimated; the construction manager’s fee, is another $1 million, and the contingency fees, which Consigli estimates are about $3 million more than previously estimated.

The significant difference came as a surprise to everyone.

Tim Hussey, a board member who announced his resignation at the end of Monday’s meeting, said “I, in my wildest dreams, did not expect we would be seeing this kind of difference.”

Other board members agreed with Hussey when he said, had the district not hired a construction manager and instead put the question to the voters in November, “We’d be in a big mess.”

“No one’s happy about this ... but it’s where we are,” said Crowley.

Menard asked, “Why are we continuing to work with Harriman?” Menard referenced how Harriman’s estimate for renovations at the high school was off by 20 percent.

“That is frankly unacceptable, in my opinion, totally unacceptable,” Menard said.

Said Chairman Maureen King, “They’ve found a mistake in what they’re working on and I think we (should) give them the four weeks to figure it out. They’re not charging us; we’re not losing any more money. They’ve been at this for four years ... if four weeks from now they haven’t got an answer or they can’t reconcile, then we have the opportunity to let them go ... They’re either going to win back our confidence or not. The only way we can answer that is if we let them do their work.”

Crowley explained further that the two firms simply have two different ways of estimating, and that Harriman used a “lump sum approach,” and Consigli factors in the non-trade costs, which is arguably a tighter approach.

“I don’t think either one’s wrong,” Crowley said.

The two firms requested the recalibration, Crowley said, “to come back to us in 2016 dollars (when the project would go to construction) and come in with a project with a modified scope that would reach no more than $58.6 million.”

Hussey also noted that the cost of terminating the contract with Harriman when they are offering to work free, or, “starting over” would be “significant to the taxpayers.”

King said just because the board will allow Harriman to work for the district for the next month does not mean terminating the firm’s contract afterward is out of the question.

The board is in no way considering a $67 million project, said board member Matt Fadiman. Rather, the new challenge and what no one is sure of now, is what a $58.6 million project looks like when factoring in inflation.

Said board member Frank Drigotas, to everyone’s agreement, “What I want during those four weeks also is for the administration and possibly this board to examine our relationship with Harriman, both past, present and future so that we can make decisions on what’s right for this district, for this project moving forward.”

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