Town Moving Forward with Miller-Driscoll Renovation

At the Thursday evening Oct. 23 Board of Education meeting, board member Glenn Hemmerle provided an update on the progress of the Miller-Driscoll Building Committee. He explained that following the special town vote to approve funding for the project, the town is already moving “full steam ahead” on getting the project underway.

“We’re moving forward, full-steam ahead to stay on schedule. We are still on track for a Dec. 2017 completion, a December 2015 construction beginning. But there are numerous issues we’re in the process of dealing with right now. There’s a myriad of state approvals that have to be gotten, work that has to be done.”

Hemmerle described some of the preparatory work that’s being done now, including land surveyors and a laser survey of the building’s exterior, “to make  sure that where we add extensions they do in fact meet where they’re supposed to, that walls come together in the right spot.” In addition, there is a geological survey that has to be completed to test the property’s soil.

An additional type of testing the committee needs to complete is PCB testing. Following questions that were raised at the town’s Special Town Meeting on Sept. 23 about whether such testing would be done and whether children were at risk even before construction might start, the committee has pledged to make sure testing for PCB’s is completed.

“We made a commitment at the public meeting and are in the process of selecting a firm to come in and do the hazmat testing for PCB’s. That will be done now, even though we don’t have to get to it until we start construction, we want to get a handle on what may be there, or may not be there, hot spots. And we will do whatever we need to do to remedy those problems, if construction or not, if renovations or not. We’re beginning that process,” Hemmerle said.

There are several additional steps the committee and town need to take in order for the project to stay on schedule–and many aren’t even directly related to construction. Based on Hemmerle’s descriptions, it’s a full slate.

“There are requirements for us to have a construction manager, which we do not have. We have RFP’s [requests for proposals] that are being developed for that. Turner [Construction] has gotten us to this point but they are not the construction manager. We have a requirement to go out now and request proposals for construction management and also for a commissioned agent, which is our agent, the owner’s agent. We are entertaining proposals for that, which we have to do, because the state requires that we have that. We have to now get a statement with the department of transportation in once our plans are done because the road that runs in front, Wolfpit Rd., is a state road. We can’t do anything to alter access to that road without the state Department of Transportation’s approval. We have to get the EPA involved, the state commission on wetlands come in and again survey the site, make sure that we meet all the requirements there. So there’s a laundry list of things that are in process right now that are all requirements for approvals and permissions before we even begin, we have to do it now,” Hemmerle said, adding that architecture firm Tai Soo Kim is in the process of starting work on the detailed construction drawings.

One area that the building committee is keeping very top of mind, according to Hemmerle, is the price of the project.

“We did have discussion about cost. As we move forward now with more detailed, finalized plans, to constantly look at and find ways, if there are economies that we can realize without sacrificing the goals and the objectives, to find those and make sure we take advantage of those. That is forefront on everyone on the building committee’s mind, are the options we have, things we can do as we move forward. I assure you, it’s talked about at every meeting–things we can do differently, what else can we do, to look at the cost and to do this on target.”

He added that the building committee is working on putting together a “communications committee, which will be looking at tying into the Miller-Driscoll website, to give updates as necessary as they occur, with the goal of letting people know how we’re coming, the timeline schedules, this is happening now, this is next, and reporting the pieces of the puzzle–it is a puzzle.”

When asked whether the meetings are videotaped, he said that they are not videotaped.

Hemmerle said the committee has had only one meeting since the special election, but that there are regularly scheduled meetings, and that they are always open for the public to attend. He said then next one is scheduled for Nov. 13 at 5 p.m. in the Wilton High School library mezzanine.

No mention was made of recent claims by the ad-hoc resident group, Sensible Wilton, which has filed a complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) alleging violations were made by town and school officials leading up to the special town vote.

More information can be found on the Miller-Driscoll Renovation Project at the project website.