Building Commission Welcomes New Reps; Hears Walsh Update

Sally E. Bahner Photo Last week the Public Building Commission welcomed Dagmar Ridgway, Senior Center director, and Alex Palluzzi,Jr., Recreation director, as temporary members for the Community Center/Senior Center renovation project, a project that has now returned to the Building Commission after a long absence. They also welcomed two more members, one a permanent appointee to the building commission and another as a temporary member for the Walsh Intermediate School project. 

Robert Barnett, an architect who has served as project manager for several nationally acclaimed projects and has a child in the Branford School System, was appointed by the Board of Selectmen earlier this month as a permanent member of the Public Building Commission. He had been a temporary member on the Walsh project. Vincent Giordano III, project manager for Giordano Construction Company, his family’s business, took Barnett’s seat at a temporary member on the Walsh (Barnett had been serving on a temporary basis after commission member Paul Cianci moved.)

Overall, the focus of the evening was on the Walsh project. The commissioners met at Fire Headquarters.

Ridgway and Paluzzi represent represent two of possibly four temporary commissioner positions appointed to oversee the upcoming $12.1 million Community House/Senior Center renovation. Tom Arcari, principal of Quisenberry-Arcari Architects, presented commission members with a packet of schematics and information about the project and said he would be available for questions.

Sally E. Bahner Photo Arcari said he would be working with building officials and the fire marshal regarding code compliance in the concept plan, which he said are “stringent.” He said the project would be out to bid in mid May, with contractors beginning work in September, and completion planned for spring 2018. He added that way they would “only lose one season in the building.”

Walsh Project Updates

But Walsh was on the forefront of discussion. First Selectman Jamie Cosgove, who testified before the state legislature’s Education Committee along with local legislators, reported that he was optimistic that the town would receive state funds toward the $88.2 million project. He said although the state Office of School Construction was supportive, “the state will not be generous.” The town is looking to receive some $30 million in state reimbursements. 

Charles Warrington Jr., senior project manager of Colliers International, owner’s representative for the project, said from July 1 forward the state is asking the districts to determine how to make best use of their existing space.
Warrington discussed the next steps for Walsh, which includes completing the design development documents by May 15 for presentation to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Colliers has been having regular working group meetings at town hall.

Michael LoSasso, principal, Antinozzi Architects, said a meeting took place with the fire marshal and police chief regarding security issues and access for fire trucks for the school as mandated by the state.

Greg Plasil of Fusco Corporation said that his group is starting the breakdown of the various construction phases, with electrical and boilers in Phase 1 and 2 and relocation of underground electrical feeders; existing underground sanitary lines are not in good shape and need to be replaced.

Schematics Suggestions for Walsh

Sally E. Bahner Photo New member Robert Barnett (pictured)and commission member Marci Palluzzi presented a memo with comments on the Walsh schematics. Commission members listened with an ear toward any additional expenditures that may be incurred by the changes. Cosgrove noted that the budget will be reconciled at various stages of the project.

One of the suggestions called for a more visible front entry, perhaps with a vertical element and more daylight. Barnett noted that the two building sections should relate more to each other, perhaps using the same brick/cladding on the first story of the addition as on original building.

Also cited was the need for some visual relief to the 300-foot length of the building, perhaps, on the north side with some projection of the two exit stair towers, which would reduce the scale and encourage use of the stairways. On the south side, it was suggested that bays be added on the second and third floors housing the science labs.

There was a concern whether the phenolic (a resin, synthetic polymer) panels are appropriate in terms of durability, being color fastness, and not warping. It was suggested that references be obtained from owners and contractors using the panels. Plasil noted that the product is “good for long-term maintenance.” 

The use of local materials, such as Stony Creek granite, was noted as a way to “celebrate Branford’s commitment to sustainability,” perhaps in a feature or some architectural elements. Cosgrove noted that it could add to the cost of the building.

Another suggestion was the widening of two long, narrow hallways used by students being dropped off, and adding skylights and glass to the orchestra and band rooms. It was also noted that a wider corridor would be better for student interaction. Finally, Barnett and Paluzzi recommended a better understanding of the seating capacity, sight lines, acoustics, and access regarding the new auditorium. LoSasso said that many of those issues are being addressed. 

The next meeting is scheduled for April 10.
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