Of the two architecture firms chosen to design the renovations now underway at Meriden’s high schools, at first it seemed that Antinozzi Associates was the one lagging behind. After all, Antinozzi had been ranked behind Fletcher Thompson initially; it was slower off the line in presenting its design for Platt; and when the drawings were presented, they looked less polished than Fletcher Thompson’s renderings for the Maloney project. Advantage: Fletcher Thompson.
But now it seems that the tables have turned and it’s Fletcher Thompson that’s having the problems — and they’re big ones. Not only that, but there have been serious concerns as well in Southigton, where Fletcher Thompson has been designing the renovations to the town’s two middle schools. This is a troubling development for both municipalities and — although each firm has more than a dozen school projects in the works right now — we can only wonder whether Fletcher Thompson hasn’t overreached. Advantage: Antinozzi.
City officials recently learned of a series of errors in the Maloney design that are going to cost close to $400,000 — and it’s not yet clear who’s going to have to pay. These are not small details: A retaining wall is going to have to be moved, and some support beams or columns are either too small to carry the weight or are missing from the drawings entirely. To make matters worse, the engineer who made the drawings is no longer with the company, which hasn’t said why, and the city won’t know until much later in the project whether the cost will be covered by the contingency fund, or by insurance, or neither.
“How does something like this happen?” asked committee Chairman Matthew C. Dominello Jr. “They’re the professionals, not us.”
Unfortunately, that’s not all: There was soil removal last year that cost more than $250,000; and a crack in the Maloney pool that somehow went unnoticed; and $1 million worth of space that wasn’t eligible for reimbursement under the state formula.
Indeed, there have been enough problems at Maloney to give School Building Committee member Bruce Fontanella “a total lack of confidence” in the architecture firm. Meanwhile, in Southington, the Fletcher Thompson-designed renovations left DePaulo and Kennedy middle schools with fewer auditorium seats than expected — and a $9 million combined cost overrun.
Although the two Meriden projects are different, Fontanella noted, when faced with a problem concerning the location of the athletic track at Platt, Antinozzi “just took it and fixed it.”
Yes, the projects are different, but the performance of the two companies has so far been very, very different.