Architect, Select Board discuss library cost cuts

By Louis Bettcher | Jun 12, 2018
Source: Town of Rockport An alternate design of the proposed Rockport Public Library, prepared by Stephen G. Smith Architects.

Rockport — The Rockport Select Board has asked Town Manager Rick Bates to prepare and submit and RFQ, or request for quote, from a member of the public who will serve as "Owner's Representative" and oversee pricing options for the construction of a new Rockport Public Library on Limerock Street.

This follows an announcement from the Board last month that Ledgewood Construction, who had provided estimates for the construction of the building, as well as separate costs for parking facilities, has withdrawn from the project.

In March, Ledgewood submitted an estimate of $3,750,000 for building the library and associated sitework; this estimate was $750,000 above the proposed budget. The Rockport Selectmen agreed last November that the total budget for the library building would not exceed $3 million, and that this money would be drawn in equal parts from taxpayer bond obligations and donations by private entities.

As town officials prepare to send the project out to bid, architect Stephen G. Smith, who designed the new structure, has been working with the Library Committee on certain design elements which will reduce the overall cost, and close some of the $750,000 gap.

Chairman Ken McKinley stated on May 29 that he anticipated the total cost for the project, which will be placed before voters in November, will exceed $3 million and be in the $3.5 million range. McKinley and Bates suggested keeping the bond amount, which taxpayers pay at $1.5 million, while seeking the $2 million from private donors and a capital campaign.

The initial $3 million budget reflected a decrease of $1 million from a previous proposal of a $4 million, 9,500 square-foot library that was designed by Reed & Co. Architects, but failed at the polls in November of 2016.

A town-wide survey following the vote revealed that a number of residents felt that the 2016 proposal was too expensive and the Limerock Street location lacked accessibility. Working with this new budget, Smith created renderings of a 7,500 square-foot building.

Since receiving the over-budget bid from Ledgewood in March, Smith has drafted alternate exterior design and floor plan diagrams for the space, which are similar in appearance to the previous plans. Smith said that the 7,000-7,500 footprint of the building has not changed, but mechanical and electrical costs have been reduced.

"Initially the building had a fairly elaborate scheme, but the Library Committee voted for engineers to redesign the systems for a more economical heating and electrical system. Will Gartley had designed a steel frame for the entire building. As steel prices have increased, we're considering changing to an entirely wooden structural system," said Smith.

Smith has also reduced some of the landscaped areas, patios and terraces from the original design. The original concept also involved a variable air volume system which has been changed to a heat-pump system to reduce costs.

“I feel comfortable that we've made a major dent in the overall budget, and we will be looking at additional “take-offs” and cost estimates on the building. I think we will be in good shape prior to the November vote," said Smith.

“We are fortunate that our architect is part of this contract, which has a clause in it which states that [Smith] is to look out for the financial well-being of the town as part of this process, and he has been proactive in that regard," said Selectman Doug Cole.

In addition to hiring an Owner's Representative, Bates suggested some other cost saving options. One would be to add a 5 percent annual inflation rate in order to cover some of the increased costs from initial pricing to bidding and construction; another is to use bid alternatives to allow for some flexibility covering cost overruns on the project.

Further discussions and an update on the library project are expected to take place at the next meeting of the Select Board on June 25. The meeting will be held in the Geoffrey C. Parker meeting room of the Rockport Opera House at 7 p.m.

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