Rink committee scrambles to discount/explain project’s $41.4 million price tag before going to board

Photo: The interior of the proposed ice rink at Belmont

In an announcement that attracted the Municipal skating rink construction committee by surprise, the design team and the owner’s project manager presented the long-awaited price for the construction of a new 48,800 square feet. skating rink and sports/recreation center adjacent to Harris Field on Concord Avenue.

What surprised the members was the estimated cost: a whopping $41.4 million, about $7 million more than the high point of the $28-34 million range. The committee first estimated that a final cost would be back in July.

The news, which comes six weeks before the November 8 general election in which voters will vote on a debt exclusion to pay for the project, has raised concerns among a number of members that the cost estimate could deter voters. to support the rink on November 8. ballot.

“If we came under $30 million, this meeting would be all pink and sunny,” said CHA owner project manager Tom Gatzunis. “But that’s the reality.”

The committee will meet at a hastily called meeting noon meeting on Friday, October 1, to discuss next steps as he scrambles to find ways to reduce the amount before heading to the Select Board on Monday October 3 for a review of the scheme.

Project architects Ted Galante and Gatzunis presented the committee with an overview of the expenses at Wednesday’s meeting, outlining each element of the construction phase step-by-step.

The construction cost is $20.5 million, which is slightly higher than what was estimated in July. Add $3.7 million in liability insurance, construction management fees and terms and conditions costs. Line items that drove up the price were design and OPM contingencies and a cost escalation reserve totaling $13.8 million. Tag on $1.5 million for unsafe removal associated with White Field House demolition, parking lot improvements and rooftop solar panels; the price is $36.6 million. Finally, miscellaneous soft costs such as paying companies, administrative work, and installing benches at $4.7 million, you get a total of $41.4 million.

Galante said his company hired Talevi and Haesche, a construction cost estimation consultancy, for 14 years, and its budget has been “consistently within its estimates.”

“Nobody likes the number. I get it; it’s expensive,” Galante said.

See a cost table below

Reaction to the announcement ranged from fear to defiance, as the new figure was far beyond what building committee leaders had presented to the public as their best estimate.

“I see everyone rocking and rolling in their seats, twisting and turning and trying to grab it all,” said Dante Muzzioli, member and former hockey coach of the Belmont High School Boys.

Some critics were candid about the news.

“My biggest concern [is] we’re coming out with a number that’s just too high,” said Tom Caputo, the board’s representative on the committee.

“It’s way beyond the high end that we talked about with the Select Board and way beyond where the community has already started to engage in the discussion,” Caputo said. The reason the select board approved the placement of the debt exclusion on the November ballot was on the assumption that the final cost would be within the range presented by the committee. “I think that number is borderline unachievable.”

Will the community wrap their arms around the rink?

Without criticizing the design team’s process or assumptions, member Muzzioli told the committee that “we really need to get a number that this community can embrace.” But after speaking to supporters who were opting out of their commitment to a rink at a price of $35 million, Muzzioli said the new cost “is going to be hard to swallow”.

“My personal request would be what levers do we have in the next few days” to pull the project costs, Caputo said. Suggestions began about strategically removing program components from the rink, such as the high school locker rooms, and possibly removing or delaying the $1.5 million allocated for the rooftop solar panel.

Chairman Mark Haley and Member Dynelle Long immediately questioned the assumptions made by the cost estimators on the two emergency stations, particularly whether the reserve was to cover the entire cost of the project rather than just the construction of the project. “It just blows [up] the number,” Haley said. Savings were also suggested by taking a different look at the cost escalation reserve set at 12.5% ​​per year.

Both Galante and Gatzunis warned that making changes to the draft at the 11th hour could backfire on the committee.

“I understand that’s a big number for the city and getting that funding will be a huge burden if it’s even possible. But we just want to be clear that we are confident in that number and dropping it could put us in a much worse situation later,” Galante said. “I think it’s important to be careful, but potentially being too careful will put the project at risk in its own way.”

Galante noted that the city, schools and residents, as well as the committee, have asked to step up and undertake additional programs – such as the lack of lockers at the new middle and high school and the loss of sports spaces and urban when the White Field House is removed – “it really drives up construction costs”.

Members expressed that the committee should stand firm with the plan presented on Wednesday, stressing

While not disagreeing that the designer should look to cut costs where they can, “I want us to keep in mind that there are stakeholders…who are interested to vote for it for some of the reasons we’re talking about deleting,” Meghan said. Moriarty, president of the school committee and his representative on the board of directors. She noted that the Recreation Department considers the proposed community hall on the second floor and skate rentals to generate revenue and are very important in promoting its programs at the rink.

“While we’re trying to make this acceptable and fair to our community members…we’re looking for the one plus vote to pass this and some of them are from people ‘waiting for changing rooms, solar panels and all the year of use.

Committee member Belmont Youth Hockey Board member Frank French Jr. said it was important to inform and remind voters that it is not an ice rink they will be supporting, but a sports facility.

“It’s a point to explain to the community how much more they get than just a rink. This is not an apples to apples comparison.

Eleanor C. William