A finance committee member tsk-tsked Town Manager George H. (Bud) Dunham upon learning this week that renovating a former bank building at 100 Route 6A could cost quite a bit more than anticipated.
The town purchased the former Santander building last May. The $3.95 million approved by voters at Town Meeting included about $1.8 million for building upgrades to convert the bank into new town offices.
Mr. Dunham told the finance committee on Tuesday, January 14, that a design update in December indicated that those costs could more than double.
Since receiving the update, Mr. Dunham and other departments have looked into how much of the work could be done by the town itself—such as upgrading the septic system—and scaling back some of the proposed alterations.
Mr. Dunham said that costs of construction projects—especially government projects—have increased substantially in recent months.
“We’re very frustrated about the costs,” Mr. Dunham said, adding that the town would not know the exact costs until bids from contractors come back in the next few weeks.
“We need to be looking at lessons learned,” said finance committee member Bob Guerin. “There should be accountability as we manage these projects.”
Mr. Guerin said such issues as HVAC and electrical systems dating back to the 1970s should be anticipated and contingency funds set aside.
Mr. Dunham told the selectmen last week that if the bids confirm that the building renovation costs are substantially higher, the town will not issue debt to cover the shortfall.
Instead, the town would ask the voters to transfer money from such sources as health insurance savings and the sale of tax roll property, Mr. Dunham said.
Such transfers must be approved by voters at Town Meeting.