Doubletake | For Coop school, just another $1M

The new Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School construction project costs $69 million — right?

Although city records currently list the overall cost of the project, part of Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s $1.5 billion School Construction Program, at just that amount, school construction officials said on Tuesday’s hard-hat tour of the 1.46-acre site that they will have to ask the city for more. The final request may be relatively meager — only $1 million — but the School Construction Program will nonetheless have to submit a formal proposal asking for the funds at Thursday’s meeting of the Citywide School Building Committee.

The construction officials said they do not expect the committee — which includes DeStefano, City Plan Director Karyn Gilvarg and Board of Aldermen Finance Committee Chair Yusuf Shah, among others — to deny them the funds. City officials on the Citywide School Building Committee did not return requests for comment left on their home and cell-phone voicemails Tuesday night.

School Construction Program Coordinator Susan Weisselberg said while on the hard-hat tour that the $1 million will cover the “tweaks and groans” that the builders have encountered during the process.

Program Manager Thomas Smith, of Providence, R.I.-based Gilbane Program Management — an independent contractor that has worked with the city and construction manager Giordano Construction on the Coop project — added that construction officials realized they needed the extra funds while purchasing the final items for the school, including furniture.

asking for more cushion

“Nobody’s happy to spend the additional money,” Smith said Tuesday. “[But] we’ve been keeping everyone informed.”

Added Weisselberg: “I’m being optimistic.”

As part of the construction contract forged in 2004 by city officials and Giordan, officials added a cushion to the budget as a “contingency” fund to account for unexpected costs that might arise over the course of the construciton, Smith said.

Construction officials originally agreed to set the contingency fund to equal 5 percent of the calculated construction costs of the building. Soon after Giordano broke ground in 2006, construction officials agreed to shave off some of the contingency fund, cutting the fund down to $2 million from $2.35 million.

The deal set the budget, including contingency funds, at up to $70 million in the contract with Giordano.

But because city officials and Giordano agreed to use only half of the contingency fund, Smith said, the Board of Aldermen approved only $69 million — $3.57 million in city bonds and the rest from a state grant — for the project in the city’s Fiscal Year 2008-’09 budget.

The contractor has now realized that it will not be able to stay within that budgeted amount.

opening in december

The designers of the Cooperative High School project had originally planned on having a roof-terrace student space, but the architects soon dropped the feature.

“It would be too expensive,” Mark Hesselgrave, senior associate for Coop project architect Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, said on the tour.

Still, the price on the Coop construction has steadily increased over the about four years the city has worked on it. When city officials first considered moving the Coop school — currently located at 444 Orange Street — construction officials estimated the project would cost $58 million.

Since that point, estimates have increased to $66 million and — after the aldermen approved the city budget — $69 million. The $3 million was added by city officials in order to “accommodate estimated increases in the projected cost that have resulted from unforeseen costs,” independent of the contingency fund, according to the city budget summary.

City Hall Spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga deferred comment to Weisselberg, whom she called the “expert” on the construction projects.

Weisselberg stressed that students should be heading to the new school by late December. Construction should finish by January, she said.

Comments

  • alphageek

    ” Most Yalies know that they live in one of America’s most dangerous cities. ”

    Anyone who believes this has led a very sheltered life. There are literally dozens of more dangerous cities in America. Think of all the places where the unemployment and poverty rates are higher, the literacy rates are lower and the various government entities have failed more egregiously than in New Haven.

    Yalies should learn to protect themselves against the hazards inherent to living in ANY large city but they should also recognize that their environment could very easily be far worse.