Hiring architects next step in NHS renovation project

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This artistic rendition shows what a classroom in Naugatuck High School could look like following the renovation project. Now that the project has been approved, the borough is searching for architects to design the project. CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — Now that voters have approved an $81 million renovation of Naugatuck High School, the committee in charge of the project is working to choose the architectural firm that will design what is supposed to be a brand-new school using the existing shell at 543 Rubber Ave.

“Times are tough and this is a nice project,” said Robert Neth, chair of the Naugatuck High School Building Committee. “I’m sure everyone wants to get involved with a piece of the action.”

The borough posted a request for qualifications recently to solicit bids with a Nov. 30 deadline. Neth, Controller Wayne McAllister and former Board of Finance Chair Raymond Lennon Jr. will pick four finalists to interview Dec. 7 and then recommend a firm to the Board of Mayor and Burgesses, which will vote on the bid in mid-December, said Neth, who is also a burgess.

The chosen architects will play a major role in the project. They will design every aspect of the renovation in detail, develop construction documents and help select and manage the construction company that will carry out their plans. The building committee has not specified a maximum fee for bidders, and will choose the company that it feels is the most qualified even if that company does not propose the lowest fees, members said.

Kaestle Boos Associates, the New Britain-based firm that completed the feasibility study for the project complete with general schematic designs and the $81 million cost estimate, plans to submit a bid, Vice President David King said.

“For us, it’s a continuation of an effort that we have started, and we want to see it through,” King said. “I hope everyone involved has been satisfied with the work that we have done, and we have been able to engender their trust so they want to continue with us.”

The borough paid Kaestle Boos $30,000, money available from previous capital projects that came in under budget, to do the study earlier this year for the Long-Term School Facilities Planning Committee. The study, as a professional service to the committee, did not have to go out to bid under the borough charter, Mayor Robert Mezzo said.

Kaestle Boos’s involvement in the project from its inception gives them an advantage in the bidding process, but they might not necessarily win the bid by default, officials said.

“They’ve spent a good deal of time preparing documents,” Mezzo said. “I think any company that does that takes a risk that they might end up doing all the work and not getting the project.”

Neth said Kaestle Boos has been “an integral part of the whole process,” but that he expected bids from eight to 12 firms.

“They’ll be treated the same as everybody else,” Neth said.

The project as proposed by Kaestle Boos would renovate classrooms, science labs, locker rooms, the auditorium, the gymnasiums, the pool and natatorium, the front entrance and the lobby to bring them up to code and install the latest technologies. The Board of Education offices would be relocated from the Tuttle Building on Church Street to underused space the school currently uses for shop classes. The sports fields would be reconfigured and synthetic turf would be installed on the football field, which would be used for soccer as well.

Kaestle Boos drew up plans for every level of the school and the grounds, but they are vague enough that a different firm could improve on them, officials said.

“Whoever it is, they’ll have to come up with a plan similar to what our conceptual view looks like,” Neth said.

The construction documents formulated by the architects will be submitted in an application to the state, which has to approve the project, Neth said. After state approval, the borough will go out to bid for a construction firm.

The borough must submit documents to the state before June 30 asking for partial reimbursement of the project’s costs. Mezzo said he expects to know the general amount the state will contribute before the project begins, but the state will determine reimbursable costs for each aspect of the project and send checks as the work is being done.