Construction for the renovation and two small additions to the police station is well underway, but not everything is in perfect harmony. There is a disagreement over how much Planning & Zoning Commission requirements added to the cost of the $4.1 million project.
It has always been said that the original scope of the project to modernize the Monroe Police Department's facilities focused mostly on the building with little site work, before conditions of the P&Z's approval included improvements to the Monroe Town Hall campus it shares to bring it up to code.
Most of the work involves drainage and paving. The Town Council recently approved a $96,800 change order for Dolphin Construction to install a storm water detention system and for paving. But building committee chairman, J.P. Sredzinski has said another $100,000 is needed to meet all of the P&Z's requirements.
It should be noted that the $96,800 is still within the $2,873,800 construction budget and did not touch the project's $300,000 contingency.
Town Finance Dir. Carl Tomchik told the Board of Finance at its June 20 meeting that he is seeking a Local Capital Improvement Program grant to pay for about $100,000 worth of P&Z conditions.
That's when P&Z Commission Chairman Richard Zini, who attended the meeting, took strong exception to hearing that his commission is adding significant costs to the project.
Zini put the costs associated with the P&Z requirements closer to $25,000 to $30,000 and contended that the rest of the work, while needed, are requirements that police put into the project.
This column includes pdf files of the P&Z approval and conditions and of the Application Review Team Comments, which says the curb-to-sidewalk detail in the parking lot should be revised to match town standards. There is also a copy of the change orders that came before the Town Council.
The site work was a bid alternate and bids ranged from $135,000 to $241,000. Dolphin Construction, which won the bid to be the contractor for the project, had proposed to do a change order for $230,000 before the building committee negotiated it down to $196,000.
At the next Board of Finance meeting, nothing was said about Zini's comments, so it may no longer be an issue. But I think it's important for people to know when it is said that the P&Z added about $100,000 to the project, that at least one person is in strong disagreement.
I didn't write about this right away, because my note taking was slow that night and I wanted to make sure I got it right. I made an FOI request to listen to the tape of the June 20 meeting and transcribed Zini's comments so people can hear him out on the issue. I also made a video of the tape, so readers can listen to the audio.
Before running the transcript, I should mention that, for all of the criticism the town gets for the way it handles FOI requests, Board of Finance Chairman Mark Reed and the First Selectman's Office were very professional in the way they handled mine.
In His Own Words
After hearing Tomchik talk about adding another $100,000 to the project, Board of Finance Chairman Mark Reed looked at Zini and asked, "Is that right Rick?"
ZINI: Actually, these requirements are not $100,000. I beg to differ Carl. There are multiple site things, some the project wants to do and ones that are mandated by town stipulations. The P&Z requirements are not $100,000.
If I was at Town Council three weeks ago, but I had to work that evening, I would have clarified that, because we put an order of magnitude on requirements before we did an approval. It wasn't $99,000.
REED: So you think it's less.
ZINI: I know it's less because I know what's required by P&Z. It's not 100,000 in site work.
Board of Finance member Ted Quinlan asked Zini how much it is.
ZINI: It was estimated by the town engineer to be between $25,000 and $30,000. There are additional things that the police department wanted that involved their logistics. That includes extending parking and so forth.
REED: So that's optional?
ZINI: Well that's not optional, it's what they want in the project.
It's nonsense that Planning & Zoning is requesting a $100,000 change order — on the record [that] is not correct. So if we want to get into a debate with finance …
TOMCHIK: You're not getting into a debate with me. All I was doing was in fact relating what was related to me …
ZINI: I know exactly how it was put together.
ZINI: Planning & Zoning required a bundle with additional requirements of the police station project requesting a change order for $100,000.
There's a $300,000 contingency that the town bonded for, and as a taxpayer I know that, on $4.2 million. You're saying we're going to spend the $300,000 contingency? Then I would question the architect, how well a job he did that we're going to have $300,000 in change orders.
And I know very well that the Planning & Zoning part is not $100,000. And I challenge your architect to come up with a number proving it's a $100,000.
Well, you also have to understand the logistics. There were two or three items that the Planning & Zoning Commission required that are part of the town’s regulations. We didn't dream them up, the commission is not being difficult. They're required by every other property owner in town. The town is not exempt, despite what some Town Council members might think.
Everyone in this town, under state law, follows the same zoning regulations — municipality or not. There were certain issues with drainage, clearance, exiting and entering for egress for the parking lot and a small extension of the parking to help assist with the drainage along with the drainage basin. That's not $100,000.
The police station has the logistics for extending their parking, yard storage, vehicle parking, public parking a whole host of other issues that are related and it frosts me as an elected official and a taxpayer that it's so convoluted as to what it actually is.
It's fact, we told the chief, we told Captain Flick, we told the architect and we told this board and the Town Council that those changes were estimated by the town engineer to be between 20,000 or 30,000.
I went to a building committee meeting and said that if your engineer, meaning the engineer who was hired by the architect in the project, feels the number is different, you better speak up now.
Well, it came to my attention as chair of Planning & Zoning, and I happen to be an architect in the private sector, that their engineer actually made a mistake on the calculations and our town engineer asked him to correct them and coincide with the town engineer to see if they were in alignment and his response to the town engineer was, "Yes. The calculations were wrong. I realigned. I don't disagree."
Now all of the sudden, the police station building committee and the architect are in front of Town Council for $100,000 because of Planning & Zoning, which is a load of baloney.
As a taxpayer, I'm frosted that it got presented that way. That's not the fact. And now I'm sitting at the Board of Finance hearing the same thing.
The police station better start saying what they're doing clearly on the record, because as a taxpayer I think it's ridiculous. I know what Planning & Zoning asked for. It didn't ask for $100,000. And we told them, if it is, tell us and we’ll discuss it. And there was no discussion.
Ted Quinlan expressed his belief that the project should have gone to Planning & Zoning earlier to know what the requirements were.
ZINI: The project's 10 years old and never went to Planning & Zoning. I would think the consultant, the architect we're paying a small fortune to, would know that, that the project at some point should have gone through town zoning. It's not a new thing.