NORFOLK — Voters approved $12.2 million for new police and fire stations in 2016, but now that the police station has opened, there is not enough money for the fire station.
It is now likely residents will have to appropriate more money for a new fire station in addition to what was initially approved through a Proposition 2 1/2 override.
The police station has run about $2.3 million over its $7.5 million budget due to reasons that include a busy construction market that is favorable to contractors, and construction, design and supervision problems. Local officials are looking into legal action against the project architect, Jacunski Humes of Berlin, Conn.
Jacunski Humes, which has designed several impressive-looking municipal projects, including police and fire stations and town halls, according to its website, didn’t respond to a request for comment from The Sun Chronicle.
What remains from the $12.2 million for the fire station is estimated at $2.84 million.
The fire station project had been earmarked for about $5 million, but now anticipated costs are pegged at $7 million to $8 million.
“It wasn’t enough to build to begin with,” town facilities director Matt Haffner said.
New selectmen Christopher Wider and Carolyn “CiCi” Van Tine have expressed outrage at the situation.
“Our fire station renovation/addition is in jeopardy,” Wider said, adding it was a prime reason he decided to run for selectman. “I think it’s ridiculous, it’s outrageous.”
“I’d really be reluctant to support additional debt,” Van Tine said. “We have incurred a lot of debt.”
Site work for the new police station building ended up costing $790,000 more than expected, including for ledge removal. Changes in design drawings wound up costing about $342,500. And the $275,000 technology budget that was intended for both stations ran $219,000 over just for the police station. Also, there were problems with the building roof that led to a cost overrun of nearly $370,000.
“We will start with the contractor and staff developing a list of costs that we believe the town should not be responsible for, and then recommending to the board an attorney to hire to take that information and perform analysis to determine how much of a demand to make against the architect,” Town Administrator Blythe Robinson said. “Whether we settle that favorably with the insurer won’t be known for a while, and then a decision would need to be made about whether to pursue other legal remedies. We do not anticipate any legal action against the contractor.”
The contractor is B.C. Construction of North Reading.
The police station is in a renovated building off Sharon Avenue, which is off Dedham Street (Route 1A) and near the Wrentham line. It also houses a new regional public safety communications center that also serves Wrentham, Plainville and Franklin, which are paying rent to Norfolk.
Norfolk voters approved $1.8 million for the building on a 1 1/2-acre site in 2014.
Former selectmen chairman J
ames Lehan, who served on the public safety building committee, acknowledges there were glitches as there are with most building projects, but says the project was very complex and a challenge. It was the first project in the state to involve a police station and communications center.
Groundbreaking for the police station and communications center took place in June 2017, and construction problems delayed the opening over half a year.
“We ran into a number of issues. We had some surprises,” Lehan said.
About $5 million in state grants paid for the Metacomet Regional Communications Center, located on the second floor of the police station.
While firefighters still have to deal with outdated quarters, they now have more space with the police department moving out of the Main Street building the two had shared for decades.
A new building committee is being formed for the fire station project.
“We want to do it with a fresh set of eyes,” Robinson said, advising selectmen to start from the beginning, partly because a new fire chief will be coming on board. “A new team and feasibility study is absolutely critical.”
At least $60,000 has already been spent planning the new fire station.
“I think you need to walk away and try to recoup” those costs, said Van Tine, an attorney herself.
Wider suggested retaining building committee Chairman George Cronin for his experience and knowledge of the police station project. Cronin has also served on school building committees.
The initial plan was to renovate and add onto the existing 50-year-old fire station building, but an option is to build an entirely new structure on that site or look for another location. There has been discussion about relocating the fire department to the DPW if the fire station site is used. The present building has also become costly to maintain.
It was expected the $12.2 million plan approved by voters would save a few million dollars because both projects were in many ways being combined and the buildings were earmarked to be renovated instead of new construction.