Hartford Close to Choosing Firm to Renovate Municipal Building

Hartford — Town officials this week took another step toward renovating the 129-year-old Hartford Municipal Building, narrowing its focus to a Vermont firm who was the low bidder on the project.

The Hartford Selectboard Tuesday night unanimously approved a recommendation by the Municipal Building Advisory Committee to go forward with Bread Loaf Corp., of Middlebury, Vt., to design and oversee construction of the project.

Selectman F. X. Flinn, who sat on the committee, said the vote signifies that the town can move toward finalizing the contract — pending a final interview, site visits, reference checks and potential consultant review.

Committee member Alan Johnson read the recommendation aloud Tuesday night, and stated 16 firms replied to the town’s request for qualifications and based off presentations and interviews with multiple firms, Bread Loaf was recommended as the best fit for the town.

Bread Loaf estimated the renovation would cost $4.15 million, which includes the design phase that is estimated at $250,000, Johnson said, which was confirmed Wednesday by a town official. That estimate is below what the town budgeted for the project, which falls under the $4.9 million bond passed during Town Meeting in March.

Johnson said the building renovations are estimated to start in April 2014, with a project completion date of April 2015.

The bond money left over from the renovation will go to cover expenses associated with temporary office space to house employees while the building is being renovated, and leave money for additional project costs, if necessary.

While renovations are being done, the employees inside the Hartford Municipal Building will be moved to a temporary location. That location is currently unknown, said Executive Assistant Eliza LeBrun. A second request for proposals went out Wednesday, as the first request only yielded one response and it “wasn’t what we were looking for,” LeBrun said.

Flinn said Bread Loaf typically works as the architect as well as the construction manager, also known as design/build project system, “so it would be unusual for them to proceed another way,” Flinn said, referring to the committee’s recommendation to move forward with Bread Loaf “for the design and construction of the Municipal Building...”

Selectman Ken Parker said Wednesday his understanding of Tuesday night’s discussion and vote was the town would move forward and finalize with Bread Loaf for both aspects.

“From the document that was distributed last evening, it appears to me this is a design/build process,” Parker said.

The contract with Bread Loaf is not final until the last interview is conducted and the additional conditions are met.

Selectman Flinn emphasized Tuesday night “that Bread Loaf is a design/ build firm,” stating the type of project delivery system is a good technique for making sure the project is completed on time and on budget.

He said Wednesday it was his impression Bread Loaf would conduct architectural work and oversee construction phases of the project, although bid out the construction phase ensuring a more efficient process than if Hartford were to do it itself.

“For the town to do it, we would have to have our ‘Is’ dotted and our ‘Ts’ crossed before we put anything out to bid, whereas Bread Loaf can make arraignments with sub-contractors earlier in the process, thus nailing down costs earlier in the process,” Flinn said Wednesday. “They have assured us that they will be using a competitive bid process to ensure they get the best price,” Flinn added.

Bread Loaf has completed or is working on multiple Twin State projects, such as Lebanon Veteran’s Memorial Pool and the Royalton Town Garage, according to the corporation’s client list.

The committee’s recommendation submitted to the Selectboard by committee chairman Matt Bucy — who is away on business — said the criteria for selecting a firm included the firms ability to complete projects on time, their track record with energy conservation and historic preservation, their willingness to work with the town, and their fee.

The final interview with Bread Loaf could be sometime in early September , Flinn said, and if everything pans out, a contract would be signed shortly thereafter.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.