Newtown: Town Energy Project Reviewed by PBSC

The Public Building and Site Commission, meeting Tuesday, April 22, reviewed the town’s energy evaluation project, which is intended to save both money and energy.

James P. Daylor, account executive from Ameresco, the energy service contractor selected to perform the energy audit, explained that Newtown elected to use an energy savings performance contracting two years ago.

Savings are folded back into the buildings to fund improvements and keep the town’s capital expenditure low or even non-existent.

Ameresco is responsible for evaluating all buildings and their systems and producing recommendations for improvements.

A preliminary energy audit is now available and Mr. Daylor said, “It serves as a directional tool.”

The town and school system have reviewed the contents of the preliminary audit and Ameresco produced a set of vetted solutions or capital improvements in municipal and school facilities.

Mr. Daylor said that one of the goals was to use this work to help remove projects from the capital improvement plan, changing the funding source for the work.

The project spans 15 years and consists of $10.7 million of work.

Mr. Daylor said that a performance contract shows a net result of payback because some savings efforts have a larger return on investment than other efforts.

Chair Robert Mitchell noted that some efforts would compensate for others with longer payback cycles.

He asked for more information because some items, such as motors, that might have a very long payback cycle may need to be replaced half way through the cycle and he’d like to understand the economic feasibility of some of the individual items described in the overall project plan.

An ad hoc committee will review the details of the plan.

In response to a question from the commission, Mr. Daylor said Ameresco is a full service energy company and will oversee construction and design activities,

Then Ameresco would monitor energy usage after work is complete.

As the commissioners express-ed concern over work that might appear during the construction, such as the discovery of hazardous materials that require abatement before work can continue, Mr. Mitchell noted that there might be some expenses that the town would need to cover outside of the $10.7 million.

Agostino Dell’Oso, the town’s representative from Celtic Energy, clarified that any information would help the decision-making process but the contract is fixed-price and Ameresco cannot return to the town with a higher price tag.

The commissioners noted that their experience in construction and work on town buildings has given them a unique perspective.

Clerk of the Works William McKnight said that changing light fixtures to systems that are more efficient would necessitate removal of ceiling tiles.

It is possible that workers could discover holes that have been made in walls to accommodate previous work projects; the fire marshal would required the holes filled to prevent the spread of a fire and that work could be outside the scope of work currently detailed in the plan.

Mr. Mitchell repeated, “For us to approve [the plan], we need to go through the documents,” and the commissioners agreed they would work diligently to identify any potential issues.

In other business, Program Manager Geralyn Hoerauf from Diversified Project Management said the schematic design phase is complete and Consigli Construction has completed a preliminary cost estimate.

Both groups met to review the data, clarify details, and identify alternatives to produce a more fully formulated schematic design.

There is now an overall project budget that falls under the $50 million cap, with estimates for many line items based on experience and consultation with the team.

Ms. Hoerauf pointed to some owner costs such as technology, based on the assumption that all items will be new.

Mr. Mitchell confirmed that such a list includes gym equipment and computers and that the numbers would be revised as the town identified items that might be donated or reused and therefore not purchased.

Jay M. Brotman, partner, Svigals and Partners, said the goal is to increase the contingency in the budget and confirmed that items such as library books would be returning to the school.

He reviewed the design elements to correlate them to the budget, such as widening the road at the school entrance, which is included in the cost.

The effort to control costs resulted in some changes to the design, such as reducing the storage capacity of the basement and altering educational spaces referred to as tree houses.

The Board of Education must approve the changes from an educational specification perspective.

The total square footage at this point is approximately 83,000.

Svigals and Partners will produce a narrative to describe the reasons for the increase such as current accommodations for people with disabilities.

“It’s approximately the same usable square footage,” Mr. Brotman said of the new building compared to the former building, which was constructed in 1955.

He expressed confidence in the materials prepared thus far and expects to hold a full design presentation in mid-May.


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