East Lyme – Supply chain issues affecting the planned replacement of the public safety building’s roof are the latest hurdle in a renovation project that continues to be a political lightning rod in the city.
The city’s building committee, general contractor, architect and city officials were heading towards a late summer completion date for the long-awaited and controversial project. Plans were delayed by a series of leaks in the roof of the communication room.
Now, the $ 200,000 roof replacement, approved by voters and funded by the federal government, is unlikely to happen until March, as raw materials are not currently available due to the pandemic, the president said. of the city’s building committee, Ray O’Connor. In the meantime, committee members last week approved the allocation of $ 11,679 for a drip tray and gutter system that O’Connor described as a “temporary barrier” so staff could move into. ‘by November or early December.
The city’s 24-person police force is currently housed in a small apartment building on Main Street with long-standing structural and water damage that has been exacerbated by recent storms.
The credit for the roof replacement was added to the $ 7.2 million already authorized for the project, made up of an initial authorization of $ 5 million in early 2019 and another $ 2.2 million. last fall for the West Main Street building that will serve as the city’s police hub. operations, dispatch center, office of the fire marshal and emergency operations center.
âIt was a matter of waiting until March to put the IT equipment under a new roof or to put the equipment under the old roof and put in place a temporary barrier, like a false roof, to contain potential leaks and divert them from the equipment, âO’Connor said.
The idea was proposed by the project committee and architects of Silver / Petrucelli + Associates, according to O’Connor. He said the project was not guaranteed by Centerbrook’s contractor Noble Construction & Management, which means there is a risk of equipment damage if the roof fails in that area.
The communications room will contain approximately $ 200,000 of new moisture-sensitive communications equipment, O’Connor said. He said there were currently no leaks in the room, but “there is potential.”
He said there seems to be a new leak every time it rains, but not necessarily in the computer room.
East Lyme Police Chief Mike Finkelstein was not at last week’s construction committee meeting due to family commitments, but said this week he would go ahead when it would be assured that the temporary solution provides the necessary protection to keep the equipment safe and dry.
Finkelstein has publicly stated that he would not be comfortable installing electronics without replacing the roof. He also insisted that officers must exit their current building, which he described as ineffective, insufficient and dangerous.
Finkelstein said he relied heavily on the building committee, architects and the general contractor for their recommendations on any temporary solutions because his business is the police, “not water mitigation and construction.”
He warned that several vendors, including the state and AT&T, will also have a role to play in deciding whether their equipment will be safe in the new space.
âIn my mind it would be a horrible option to say wait for the roof,â Finkelstein said. Like O’Connor, he blamed the problems in the global supply chain that reverberate at the local level.
âIn the meantime, I guess I’m saying we have to get out of the situation we’re in,â he said. “We have to go forward and enter the building.”
The issue sparks political wrangling
According to First Selectman Mark Nickerson, a certificate of occupancy will likely be issued by the building department within 30 days, although it will take some time to prepare the building for residents.
“We are convinced that we will be able to move into the building, and we will have a new roof on this building in the spring,” he said.
The president of the finance council, Camille Alberti, also the first selectman candidate, has been criticizing the project for several years. After attending last week’s building committee meeting via Zoom, she told The Day that concerns she voiced at the town hall meeting over the roof replacement were coming to fruition.
“I said, ‘Look, the last thing I want is for the police to move from one mold infested building to another,'” she said of the town meeting. . “I think it was not well received.”
The voice voting of around 70 people at the town assembly was passed decisively enough that it did not require manual voting.
Alberti lost to Nickerson two years ago in the race for first selectman and this time races to Republican First Deputy Kevin Seery.
Earlier this summer, Alberti and Democratic Vice President of the Finance Council Ann Cicchiello, who is running alongside Alberti for selectman, voted against the motion to send the roof replacement to the city meeting in first place.
Alberti questioned the wisdom of moving expensive equipment and personnel around the building before the roof was repaired.
Committee members last week approved the leak protection system for the computer room as well as $ 9,727 for waterproofing the interior wall east to meet what project architect Steve June described in the lawsuit. -verbal like “a fair amount of mold”. Members also approved $ 3,095 to activate the HVAC system to alleviate unusually humid conditions and “to control mold,” the minutes said. The committee allocated $ 1,285 for a video inspection of a footing drain that was found to have a broken pipe, which was then repaired by the public works department.
Members also raised drainage issues around the foundation, but did not allocate funds to address the issue.
Alberti claimed the committee was rushing to complete the project before the November elections.
“Go hell or high tide, no pun intended, they want (Nickerson) cut the tape before he leaves office,” she said, referring to comments she heard at last week’s meeting.
The Day was unable to access a recording of the Zoom meeting despite several attempts.
Nickerson scoffed Thursday at Alberti’s criticisms of decisions made by the committee in consultation with project engineers, contractor and department heads.
âA housewife, someone who is not in the building trades, tells builders that they are doing it wrong,â he said. “These people do this for a living. They know what they’re doing.”
He noted that the mold problem is solved by activating the HVAC system. He reiterated that the leaks in the computer room have ceased and that the leaks in other areas are “minimal”.
He described the temporary solution as a âkind of interior secondary roofâ used in other government and commercial buildings.
“We are going to do it right and we are going to do it as quickly as possible, but we are not going to cut corners,” he said. “This project was never for me. It was about finally putting our staff and our public security service in the appropriate buildings. And we will.”
Alberti, in a response to The Day regarding the housewife’s comment, said statements like this help expose “the real uncivil discourse that our townspeople have had to endure for many years.”
“A license to contract is not necessary to understand the absurd approach to renovating the interior of a building before replacing a leaky roof and before mitigating drainage problems resulting from a rising water table. “she said.
She described the temporary roof repair as another example of “total mismanagement by the current administration.”
Seery, the Republican candidate for the first managerial post, said he would support the move before the roof is replaced if there is “a high degree of certainty” that the temporary measures will ensure the safety of the equipment. He said he would look to the general contractor, architect and home inspector for that assurance.
âWe’re very close to being done here,â Seery said. “I wouldn’t want to move into the building if anyone feared that there would be a failure of this temporary solution, as it would have a lot of negative effects.”