WILBRAHAM – On July 21, the Police Station Feasibility Study Committee voted to unanimously support a recommendation to retain Tecton Architects of Hartford, Connecticut, to conduct the study of potential sites for a new home for the Police Department.
Police Station Feasibility Study Committee Chair Roger Fontaine and Police Chief Roger Tucker listen to representatives of Tecton Architects during the interview process on July 21 through which the committee determined a firm to recommend to the Board of Selectmen.
Reminder Publications photo by Chris Maza
Tecton, which was utilized by the town in the design and oversight of the expansion and reconstruction of the main fire station on Boston Road, was chosen from a list of three finalists, which also included Reinhardt Associates of Agawam and Kaestle Boos Associates Inc. of New Britain, Connecticut. The 10-member panel interviewed all three firms at Town Hall and will make its formal recommendation to the Board of Selectmen on July 28.
“I like the scope of ammunition that [Tecton] can offer us and I appreciate their ability to be flexible,” Fire Commissioner and committee member Ed Rigney, said.
The decision was made after substantial debate between Tecton and Reinhardt Associates during which everyone agreed that either firm would most likely be able to complete the job to the town’s satisfaction. Committee Chair Roger Fontaine pointed out that in the weighted assessment system devised by the committee to narrow the pool of 11 candidates to three finalists, Reinhardt Associates and Tecton were also very close.
“Both obviously separated themselves from the other nine,” Rigney said. “The third [Kaestle Boos Associates] was not prepared for anything.”
Ultimately, while there was strong support for Reinhardt, based on their western Massachusetts ties, strong presentation and body of work, which included the recently completed $7.4 million police station in Palmer, the committee agreed that the town’s previous experience with Tecton was the deciding factor.
Rigney spoke highly of Tecton’s “zeal” and “sense of ownership” with regard to projects, as well as the company’s attention to detail and strength in negotiations on the town’s behalf with regard to issues such as change orders.
Fire Chief Francis Nothe admitted that he did not feel Tecton had the better presentation when compared with Reinhardt Associates, but noted that the firm was diligent in ensuring the fire station project was done right and on budget.
“Tecton was able to bring the project in within our monetary constraints. That was not an open-ended project,” he said, referring to the fact that a budget for the police station has not yet been developed. “We were given $2.8 million and had to bring the project in on those numbers. Tecton kept the soft costs very tight and on budget and now we have a building that I think will stand the test of time.”
Building Inspector and committee member Lance Trevallion, who was the town’s project manager on the fire station project, said he appreciated the ease with which he was able to work with Tecton.
“In my time, I’ve worked with a lot of architects and Tecton has been by far the best to work with, especially on this type of project,” he said.
Committee member Kevin Moriarty said one of the things he was impressed with in Reinhardt Associates’ presentation was their proposal to conduct an assessment of the current police station through which the firm would create an educational model to show the town exactly why a new station is needed.
John MacMillan, principal of Reinhardt Associates, said 90 percent of the time when going to town meeting, his company’s proposals are approved. Moriarty said he wondered if Tecton would do the same. Rigney explained that Tecton had already done such a study “as a courtesy to the town” after completing the fire station project.
Tecton Principal Jeffrey McElravy told the committee during his presentation that he has been involved in the construction of police facilities throughout the East Coast, but said it was the professional relationship that would set his firm apart from the others.
“I’m pretty sure that technically all three of the firms you’re talking to today can build this. This is about building relationships,” he said. “A significant portion of our work, about 85 percent, is for repeat customers, which has helped us stay really healthy in an economic downturn.”
McElravy also said ensuring the committee and the town have a strong understanding of the project’s needs and recommendations resulting from the study was a priority.
Reinhardt Associates also stressed community understanding as part of its presentation, as MacMillan explained the company employed its own marketing department to not only advertise the business, but also educate the public on the nuances of the project.
Rigney raised some concerns regarding Kaestle Boos, specifically project architect Benjamin Monroe’s lack of experience with police buildings and a recent seven-year-long lawsuit with New Canaan, Connecticut, that was recently settled.
David King, Kaestle Boos vice president, said the firm was involved in the lawsuit not through any fault of its own, but because the asbestos consultant hired by the town failed to identify contamination in a wall.
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