Members of the building committee of the Ragged Mountain Recreation Area Redevelopment Committee are working on a brochure and public charrette process that would explain the progress and pitfalls of their proposed $6.5 million project to upgrade facilities at the Camden Snow Bowl.

Building committee members met Feb. 3 for an update on discussions with architect Stephen Blatt, after projected costs for a new lodge building came in about $1 million over budget.

The redevelopment committee has raised $2 million of the $4.5 million in private donations that will trigger a request for a vote on a $2 million bond issue through the town of Camden, which owns the Ragged Mountain Recreation Area.

Chairman John Scholz began the meeting by announcing his resignation from the post and nominating Don Gross as his replacement. Scholz said he solicited nominations from the redevelopment committee, and others in town, prior to suggesting Gross. Scholz said he would be available to provide background and would remain on the redevelopment committee.

Architect’s design exceeds budget

The scope of the redevelopment project was set in a series of meetings over the last two years between the full redevelopment committee, which is authorized by the Select Board for the project and its two subcommittees. The building committee focuses on the lodge and base area. The land use committee is looking at on-mountain improvements such as trails, lifts and snowmaking, and other uses such as mountain bike trails.

“We developed a space program and needs that we saw fit to put into the lodge in order to have it be useful and of a quality that would last decades,” Scholz said. “It got to the point where the size of the lodge and estimated costs provided by the architect came up to about $1 million more than the $6.5 million.”

Committee member Rick Knowlton said the problem became evident in the fall, when an independent estimate stated the cost of the building and its immediate site would be $3.7 million. With other site work and infrastructure improvements relative to the building, the total for that part of the project came to just under $5 million.

Scholz said he held discussions with Blatt to see if the size of the lodge could be reduced, but with the program needs outlined by Recreation Director Jeff Kuller, it seemed logical to consider using existing buildings for some programs while creating a new design for a smaller lodge building.

Describing the progress made so far as “significant,” Gross said the next task for the group was to see how the needs outlined for the site could be accommodated efficiently and economically, while meeting all the guidelines set out for the project.

According to Knowlton, Blatt said scaling the current design down by more than a thousand square feet was not practical.

“The building wasn’t designed to be scaleable because of its shape and form,” Knowlton said. He said Blatt gave the committee a list of items to consider that would reduce the cost of building without exceeding that thousand-square-foot reduction. The cost for that scaled-down design was estimated at $3.2 million for the building alone.

Knowlton said the redevelopment committee went over all the costs for the project, both on the hill and at the base. They started with the $6.5 million budgeted for the entire project and, after all other expected costs for the hill and the base amenities were taken into consideration, there was $2.2 million left to pay for building construction.

“It requires us to modify the current contractual agreement between Stephen Blatt and the town,” Knowlton said. “It’s a different set of language in form and responsibility.” He said Blatt’s office was considering the new language that would be reviewed by Camden Town Attorney William Kelly before a vote by the Select Board, expected by early March.

Knowlton said architects generally receive a percentage of the cost of construction. With the lower construction cost the redevelopment committee would have enough in its professional services budget to pay an appropriate architect’s fee on top of what has already been spent.

“He will be paid both for what he’s done to date and for work going forward,” Knowlton said. He said the committee hoped to continue working with Blatt.

One factor both the committee and Blatt agreed on was the desire to have the process be public. Toward that end, a charrette will be planned toward the end of the first phase of the project. That collaborative design discussion would include a determination of how existing buildings and spaces at the Camden Snow Bowl could be used to fulfill the goals of the redevelopment project, and would provide information to the architect on the programs that would take place in the various spaces.

Knowlton said information provided at a charrette should address a breakdown of costs for hill improvements, septic and power needs, snowmaking and lifts.

Construction manager may be hired

A second decision facing the committee is whether to incorporate the role of a construction manager in the process.

According to the website at princetonreview.com, “A construction manager is the intermediary between his clients and his workers, between the architect and his subcontractors, and between the project and any regulatory personnel.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics website says, “Construction managers plan, direct, coordinate, and budget a wide variety of construction projects. They schedule and coordinate all design and construction processes, including the selection, hiring, and oversight of specialty trade contractors, such as carpentry, plumbing, or electrical, but they usually do not do any actual construction of the structure.

“Construction managers determine the best way to get materials to the building site and the most cost-effective plan and schedule for completing the project,” the BLS site said. They also manage the selection of contractors, oversee their performance and are responsible for ensuring that all work is completed on schedule.

According to the BLS site, construction managers earn between $50,000 and $100,000 per year. Knowlton said that the reallocation of budget numbers allowed for an accommodation for a construction manager’s fee.

“It’s usually 3 to 4 percent of construction value,” said Knowlton. “For a building of this size it would be about $50,000.”

Knowlton said a construction manager would be paid a set fee and would assume ultimate responsibility to build the facility. A maximum cost for the project would be set in advance and, Knowlton said, “The owner reaps the savings.”

Kuller said that would eliminate the need for a cost estimator in the architect’s office.

Scholz said such an arrangement could sometimes create tensions between the construction manager and the design team, since the construction manager may select different materials or systems in order to keep the overall cost of the project within the stated amount.

The committee members discussed how they would respond if a donor materialized and offered a large sum, such as $1 million to the project. Select Board member Deborah Dodge said she thought the group should consider lowering the amount to be raised by a bond issue, if that were the case.

Time line depends on donations

Gross said he wanted to be able to tell the public when the committee expected the $4.5 million goal to be reached, and that not having that answer made the fundraising process more difficult.

Once the contract revision has been approved, Knowlton said the next step would be to schedule the charrette, a community meeting between the planners, the architect and interested citizens.

“From then forward, the building committee should be meeting every two or three weeks with [Blatt] until the design gets fleshed out,” he said. “Meanwhile, the redevelopment committee will be looking for a construction manager.” Knowlton said he hoped that position would be filled by mid-March.

He said that Gartley & Dorsky would probably consult on engineering matters relating to utilities, maintenance needs and infrastructure improvements, and that local contractors might be found who would do some of the construction work as in-kind donations.

Scholz said a construction manager could have a lot of influence on the design.

“You want a sophistication in a construction manager,” he said. “Otherwise you could end up with a design that has been squeezed into a dollar number.” He said a general contractor would defer to the architect, while a construction manager stood on an even footing with the design team.

The decision of whether and whom to hire would be made by the Select Board, after the redevelopment committee as a whole makes its recommendation.

The next meeting of the Ragged Mountain Recreation Area Redevelopment Committee is not yet scheduled. Knowlton said he hoped to have a meeting before February school vacation but that it would probably take place near the end of February. The building committee will meet again at about the same time.

The Herald Gazette Reporter Shlomit Auciello can be reached at 207-236-8511 or by e-mail at sauciello@villagesoup.com.