In all of the stories written about the Berlin High School renovation project, the Public Building Commission is mentioned.
The PBC sent the project back to the Town Council after a portion of the project came in over budget. The Council reacted by hiring outside legal counsel to see what the options were. At its last meeting, the Town Council voted to send the project back to the PBC with some instructions. The town will now await the plans to be finalized by the architects and then see what the next step will be.
So how many people in town know what the PBC is and what they do? The Commission is a seven-person volunteer board, just like the Town Council. Hopefully this Question and Answer with Assistant Chair Tom Salimeno will help answer those questions.
Berlin Patch: What is the mission of the PBC as defined by the town charter?
Tom Salimeno: "It shall be the duty of the Public Building Commission to develop preliminary plans and cost estimates and supervise the construction of, addition to, or alteration of any building approved by the Council, based upon a statement of need, including specified requirements and specifications. Plans and estimates should include, where necessary, site improvement and other appurtenances, together with any equipment and furnishings."
Berlin Patch: What are the most often kind of structures you deal with?
Tom Salimeno: New town buildings or major renovations. Maintenance or minor improvements to Town Buildings are handled by Public Works and their staff."
Berlin Patch: By charter what can you can and can't do?
Tom Salimeno: "We are responsible for working project to completion per the statement of need to a defined budget."
Berlin Patch: At any point during the high school renovation project did you feel like the project was too big for a seven person volunteer commission to deal with?
Tom Salimeno: "We never felt that it was too big for the PBC. We have the ability, and recognize the need, to work with paid professionals to get projects completed. Hence, the reason for hiring Gilbane as the program manager. Similarly, the reason for hiring the rest of the project team - architect, construction manager, commissioning agent, third party estimator, etc."
Berlin Patch: So it wasn't out of your scope?
Tom Salimeno: "No."
Berlin Patch: I know you have the help of town staff but was a $70 million project just too involved and cumbersome for the PBC?
Tom Salimeno: "No, see my response concerning the project team. If anything, the cumbersome part is the necessary and appropriate interaction between the Town Council, Board of Education, PBC, and paid staff (i.e., town manager, superintendent, principal, director of business operations for the schools, public works director/town engineer). Each entity has its roles and responsibilities and is the reality of town government."
Berlin Patch: In no way am I trying to blame anyone, especially the PBC for the delay, I think people are interested in what the PBC is and what it does since it is often written about in articles.
Tom Salimeno: "While it is easy to look at it as a delay, it is really just part of the way the town is structured and the process. This is true with most town governments and not just Berlin."