Mayor On Berlin High School Renovation: Back To The Drawing Board

Salina says he will vote to bring in a new team to renovate Berlin High School.


All summer residents of Berlin have wondered aloud why the Berlin High School project has not moved along and there has been little or no progress.

The answer is now known.

Mayor Adam Salina said Friday night that he will ask the Town Council to vote to remove the project team and start over with another construction team.

Thursday night, the Public Building Commission moved to send the project back to the Town Council after the construction team came in with an estimate 11 percent over the allotted amount of money approved at referendum.

"We fully thought this would be in two phases, Phase I was the pre-fab building and swing space and the original amount was 30 to 35 percent over budget," Salina said. "If they are over budget this early I don't expect them to get back under budget later.

"Quite frankly, I am disgusted, outraged and embarrasses that this team could not do the job they promised. The PBC has moved it back to us and it will be on the agenda for the Sept. 11 meeting but I'm not sure what the next step is. What I can tell you is this. We have lost all confidence in this team and we need a new team to do this project right. I only have one vote but this is the largest project of our generation. There is no way we are going to cut corners or lower our standards. We will not have a sub-par project."

The Construction team consists of architect Silver, Petrucelli and Associates, FIP is the construction manager and Gilbane is the project manager.

"I'm not exactly sure what will happen next but our corporation counsel Bob Webber is examining all of the contracts," Salina said. "Patience has worn thin and in order to proceed there needs to be a drastic change. There have been delays all the way along. To stop the bleeding, we need a new team."

The town voted at referendum to pay almost $70 million for a complete renovation project of the aging high school. The project is called "build-as-new" which means everything in the high school would be gutted and renovated as new.

"You pay professionals because they know what they are doing," Salina said. "You enter into contracts with professionals because you have confidence they will get the job done. The bottom line is they have come up short and made excuses almost from day one. They kept telling us there was a little delay here but they would make it up there. We need to bring someone in who can get it done because they have proven they can't get it done."

Salina said there has been several times where the plug was almost pulled on this construction group but it was decided to see how things played out.

"You always want the process to go smoothly," Salina said. "They were over budget right out of the box so we adjusted and scaled back but it still met the OCR (Office of Civil Rights) and NEASC (New England Association of Secondary Schools) specs. We all wanted them to get the job done but they have shown that can't happen."

At the PBC meeting Thursday night, architect Dean Petrucelli told the commissioners that every cut that could be made had been made already and they were still well over budget.

Salina said he knows he will feel the wrath of the people who voted for the renovation but says he believes this is the right thing to do.

"I personally do not feel comfortable cutting corners and trying to squeeze something into the space," he said. "It has to be done right. The last thing, me included, do not want to see this project go backwards. We have to go back to all those parents, the people in 'Yes for BHS', so many people who have been working on this literally for years and tell them we have to do this right."



Mary Ellen Maloney September 01, 2012 at 02:46 AM
It's about time! The architects should have been gone months ago, after their multiple errors that have cost the proect time and money. Unfortunately, Silver and Petrucelli continued to recieve payment for their sub-par work. I am happy Mayor Salina is finally paying attention, PLEASE continue to do so.
Bill September 01, 2012 at 11:54 AM
They need more money, well who didn't see that coming. One of the reasons I voted twice against the bloated renovate as new version of the project. At least if the town had gone with the smaller version a small increase in cost wouldn't have hurt as much. But the mayor and the BOE wanted the Taj Mahal, and managed to get what they wanted, and we get to pay for it.
ron gravelle September 01, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Same old same ole we see it in Hartford at the state house now it's in our back yard it's only money but now it's only our money. Our grand parents were taught in one room school houses reading and writing by 4th grade now we have kids getting out of high school and not able to read or write yet they have a palace to go to learn in. Some thing wrong with this picture, the building does not matter as long as it safe it what goes on inside that make a school a school.
Billy Smith September 01, 2012 at 05:18 PM
New referendum is needed to vote this project into the ground!
Scott September 01, 2012 at 10:54 PM
I knew this would happen....Did anyone with an ounce of common-sense think this "project" would've turned out any different? It's EXACTLY what I and other argued about.
Berlin J September 02, 2012 at 12:21 AM
I think there are some cost saving measures that haven't been realized, specifically that the engineers wanted to throw away the brand new boilers that had been recently installed within the last few years. I believe that was a six or seven hundred thousand dollar project that is being thrown in the garbage. There, we just saved 2 or 3 percent of the cost.... now, what else is being thrown way?
Buddy September 03, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Dear Mr. Mayor, How about you look in the mirror before you blame the Construction Professional's? Very Professional of you. But what else would one expect from a Progressive Democrat? Blame everyone else and never look in the mirror. Didn't the Town council led by you, give this Architect Firm this project with out going out to bid? And why is it these Professional's are having a hard time sticking up fro themselves? Maybe it is time for the Board of Ed President to stop designing the project? Maybe the Town of Berlin Department of Public Work's personnel are not experienced enough for a project of this size? And yes, you are correct, we need a new team. But let's start in the Mayor's Office, Board of Ed Office, and the Public works Department before you start blaming everyone else for your woes. We need someone leading this Town and the Board of Ed who are less worried about legacy building. But it may be too late, I hear the BOE President has his name on the Gold Plated Cornerstone plaque.
Christine September 04, 2012 at 04:11 AM
Problem 1: Brochu's "statement of need" outweighs OCR & NEASC requirements. Problem 2: $83 mil plan defeated at referendum-- so shave the contingency down to 2% and 'poof' a $70 mil plan. Did anyone really expect this $83 mil plan to stay in a $70 mil budget? Problem 3: Adam Salina, "doesn't want to cut corners or see this project go backwards" Spending money you don't have is always backwards, no matter how you slice it! Maybe the simple truth is that we CAN NOT AFFORD this "largest project of our generation!" And finally, mark my words, "There will be additional issues with the govt reimbursement-- that money is not a sure deal-- taxpayers will end up eating this entire project!"
Gary Brochu September 04, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Christine, the statement of need that you reference was approved by the elected Board of Education, not just "Brochu." And yes, the statement of need was not limited to OCR violations. For example, the roof is badly in need of repair. Neither OCR nor NEASC reference the roof. Should we ignore that problem because OCR and NEASC did not cite it? Finally, you are badly misrpresenting facts by stating that the difference between the two proposed projects was simply "contingency."
Scott September 07, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Gary has millions of excuses of what he said and what was printed, who heard what, and who said what. He makes Abbott & Costello’s skit “Who’s on first” easy to follow. Gary has never seen a tax increase he didn’t like and clearly doesn’t care how much tax paying citizens bleed. With not one teaspoon of dirt dug on this project it is already MILLIONS of dollars OVER BUDGET, and the contingency fund SPENT. Don’t hold your breath for Gary (Chairman of the BOE) or anyone else to take responsibility for this ill-planned, ill-conceived boondoggle. Just remember this, the red flags myself and others raised about this project during referendum have ALL come to fruition - Who will be paying for their mistakes? YOU.
James Ostroski September 07, 2012 at 03:54 PM
I have to say that this project was a mistake right from the start.Anyone who knows how government works knows that they pull the wool over the taxpayers eyes and when they send a project to referendum the amount that is requested is going to be wrong and they will always go to the taxpayers for more money.Everything looks good on paper but when reality hits then the taxpayers are the ones who will pay the price.I twice voted down the proposal because obviously the elected officials always wait until the last minute to do things.During one of the tours prior to the 2nd vote it was noted that sections of the roof were close to 60 years old.It does not take a rocket scientist to know that a roof does not last more then 30 years and why was this not replaced earlier.I asked if there is a plan to prevent something like this from happening again and was advised that "they are working on one".In other words what they were telling people is we are going to let our buildings get neglected again so they have to spend millions of dollars for renovations.The ones that should be to blame are the elected officials and it's time they stop bleeding the taxpayers and renovate the building in the alloted $70 million that was approved.There may be some luxurious items that may have to be withdrawn but that will not have any effect on the education process.
right design September 21, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Unfortunately we are now seeing the results of city and town administrations being seduced into awarding large , complex design and construction projects to low bidders. Didnt anyone see this coming ? There are plenty of towns hiring experienced consultants that have delivered these projects to the benefit of every tax paying citizen as well as delivering responsible and progressive learning environments to enable our kids to compete on a global level. That is what we should expect of our town administrators and professional consultants. You get what you pay for. Until the time when the governining bodies entrusted to make these decisions are comprised of discerning and highly educated people who can differentiate between "barely adequate" and "great design and construction" , towns across our state will suffer from the results very poor judgement by placing cost at the very top of contributing factors. GOOD DESIGN DOES NOT COST MORE BUT THERE IS ALWAYS HIGHER VALUE DELIVERED BY PROFESSIONALS WHO KNOW WHAT THE COST IS TO DO THINGS RIGHT. This is not rocket science , it is reasonable and responsible governance.


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