The Town Council will consider adding millions to the price of the window replacement project at Watertown Middle School after the scope of the project was changed.
The proposed project calls for replacing 207 plexiglass windows in the old section of the middle school. The estimate for the cost of replacing plexiglass windows at the middle school was $302,642 but after the owner’s project manager appointed by the state studied the project the cost of the project jumped to between $2.6 million and $2.9 million.
The change in price was due to a change in the scope of the project, said Councilor Vincent Piccirilli, chair of the Budget and Fiscal Oversight subcommittee – the committee which voted to recommend the council endorse the project with the new budget.
The project has been submitted to and accepted by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). This means the state will reimburse Watertown for 48.47 percent of the cost of the project, and that the town must follow the MSBA’s rules and even what will be included in the project.
Council Vice President Steve Corbett said he was shocked to see such a miscalculation.
“First we have a proposal in the ballpark of $300,000. Little research was done and this council voted on it,” Corbett said. “It speaks poorly of management that this was brought forward and now we have a project 8 to 9 times higher.”
Piccirilli said the scope of the project was not up to the town.
“This came as a shock to many of us,” Piccirlli said. “The owner’s project manager was assigned to the project and decided the scope of the project. The district does not get to decide. They recommend replacing all the windows with windows with thermal panes.”
The original estimate came from a 2007 study of Watertown’s school buildings to see what improvements were needed. The study recommended replacing only the panes of plexiglass in the portion of the window that can fold in to let in air – which are about 4.6 square feet in size. The project manager, however, recommended replacing the entire window – about 29.5 square feet in size – because they are single paned with aluminum frames, Piccirilli said.
Councilor Angeline Kounelis, a member of the Budget and Fiscal Oversight Committee, said the decision did not come lightly.
“We were in awe when we received the documents,” Kounelis said. “The numbers were from 2007 and nothing was put in for increases. It’s just a very unfortunate situation.”
She said the subcommittee voted to endorse the project because it is what is best for the Watertown’s schools and children.
In order to receive the state reimbursement, the town must approve $244,400 in fees – $149,900 for the designer (Gale Associates) and $74,500 for the owner’s project manager (exPERTcon Inc.). The fees must be received by the MSBA by Nov. 25.
Corbett said he thought the fees were “exorbitant” for a designer and project manager.
Piccirilli said, again, the town has no control.
“I agree with Councilor Corbett, $225,000 seems like a lot, but the way the program works we have no choice,” Piccirilli said. “We have not choice of who to use or how to choose them.”
There is a possibility that the price of the project may drop, Piccirilli said. The price also includes new doors in the area of the renovation, but they might not have to be replaced.
“When you do a project, the MSBA makes sure the building is brought up to ADA compliance,” Piccirilli said. “Watertown Middle School is ADA compliant. The way the MSBA works is they assume we don’t know that.”
The Council did not vote on the fees for the designer and owner’s project manager. A public hearing will be held at the next Council meeting on Nov. 24, and a vote will be held then.