MERIDEN — In response to feedback from city officials, architects designing a proposed banquet facility at the municipal golf course are exploring whether they can make aesthetic improvements to the facility and still meet the city’s $1 million budget.
After seeing a presentation of what the banquet facility would look like this week, Democratic Councilor Miguel Castro and unaffiliated Mayor Kevin Scarpati disapproved of the building’s appearance, arguing it wouldn’t complement the golf course or reflect well on the city.
Specifically, they said the banquet hall’s exterior, which would be constructed with prefabricated metal panels, doesn’t match the wood frame structure of the golf course’s onsite restaurant, Violi’s. The banquet facility will be constructed next to Violi’s, but won’t be connected to the restaurant.
“A metal prefab building looks good for Family Dollar on East Main Street. I don’t think it’s going to look good at our golf course,” Scarpati said after representatives from LaRosa Building Group and BL Cos. presented the project to the City Council’s Finance Committee.
Castro called the facility, projected to cost $968,000, “just not attractive enough.”
In response to the aesthetic concerns, LaRosa and BL Cos. are determining whether constructing the front of the banquet facility, facing the parking lot, to match the wood materials and color of the Violi’s building would put the project over budget, according to Finance Committee Chairman Brian Daniels. The sides of the building would remain metal panels, while the rear of the building will be mostly windows and a door that leads out onto a patio overlooking the 18th green.
The company and engineering firm, Daniels said, are looking to answer two questions: Would constructing the front to match Violi’s put the project over budget, and how would the building look with those changes. The company and firm were expected to get answers to the city Thursday or Friday in advance of Monday, when the City Council is expected to vote on whether to approve an additional $125,000 requested for the project.
The $125,000 would augment $875,000 previously approved for the project in April. The city decided to increase the project’s budget after LaRosa and BL Cos. presented what they could build for around $875,000, which some described as an unattractive metal shed.Aesthetics vs. cost
LaRosa was the only company that responded to a request-for-proposals issued by the city last month, in which the city set a budget of $875,000 and required the facility seat at least 150. LaRosa submitted an initial proposal for a facility that would seat 200 and cost $1.7 million. After getting feedback from the city’s banquet facilities building committee, the company then came back with a “bare minimum” facility, estimated to cost $896,000.
Committee members didn’t like the appearance of that option, so the company submitted a third and final design estimated to cost $968,770. The final design option reduces the distance between the standalone banquet facility and restaurant, and creates enough room from the 18th green to put a patio in the rear, said project architect John Ireland from BL Cos.
Daniels pointed out the city has to keep the project under $1 million to avoid paying roughly an additional 20 percent due to the state’s prevailing wage requirements. LaRosa and BL Cos., therefore, need to determine whether constructing the building’s front entrance with wood instead of metal will add more than $31,000 in costs.
While some officials said they would consider any banquet facility to be an improvement over the temporary tent structure the city has used to host events at the course since 2005, Scarpati doesn’t feel the $968,000 facility is what he or the council envisioned for this project. Scarpati feels he and councilors were “misled” by staff to think the city could build an attractive, 150-seat facility for $875,000.
Mayor Kevin Scarpati
Scarpati called the $968,000 facility, which well exceeded the city’s original budget, something that’s “far from what we can be proud of.”
City Manager Tim Coon couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday. The city’s former purchasing officer, Wilma Petro, who was rehired by the city after retiring this year as a special projects consultant, said she contacted a couple of large construction companies and “discussed current square foot building costs and used those in my estimate.”
Petro said she had concerns that the project’s budget and construction timetable would might it unattractive to construction companies.
“I did let people know that I was concerned the budget was tight and the schedule was not attractive as much work had to be done in the winter and you had to make sure the building was “buttoned” up before then,” Petro said in an email. “This was confirmed by the lack of response (to the request-for-proposals put out by the city).”
Daniels noted that the bidding process is “somewhat backward” because the city is required to set a price before seeing bids.
“You do your best to project,” Daniels said.
Petro also noted based on conversations she’s had with professionals, that “we are seeing (construction) prices rise by 15 to 25 percent” beginning in the late spring and early summer this year. Option to wait?
Scarpati said he feels the approval process for the banquet facility has been “rushed” and wondered why the project can’t be put off a year.
The RFP put out by the city for the project requires that ground be broken for the project by October and that construction is completed by spring 2020.
“They want it done before the next golf season … but if we can go another year with the tent and continue the dialogue and discussion and continue to work the numbers as best as possible to get something that we can be proud of, then I think it’s worth taking the time,” Scarpati said.
Daniels doesn’t feel that the project has been rushed and said every issue brought up at Tuesday’s meeting was studied in depth by the building committee that oversaw the project, of which Daniels was a member.
City Councilor Brian Daniels
“There’s absolutely no reason to wait,” said Daniels. “There’s not going to be any new information a year from now, so people either need to decide, ‘Are you going to do it or not?’ ”
It’s possible some councilors may want to “get this project finalized as soon as possible,” Scarpati said, because “there may be a different makeup in our elected leadership come December.”
Daniels, who isn’t seeking re-election this year after 12 years on the council, said the approval timeline for this project is dictated by the construction season and the need to have the facility ready for the spring and has “absolutely nothing” to do with his term expiring on Dec. 2.