By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN
MEREDITH — What is there not to like in a library expansion plan with a guaranteed maximum price that is $2 million less than what was proposed to voters last fall?
Lots, according to a retired engineer who served on the Library Trustee-Select Board Joint Feasibility Study Committee, formed to determine whether the Benjamin M. Smith Memorial Library could be expanded to meet community needs at its current location.
Andy Lane, who recently retired from Rist-Frost-Shumway Engineering of Laconia, said, “I do not believe for a second that Lavallee Brensinger Architects means they will maintain the quality and program by paying for the identified scope out of their own funds if unforeseen issues or high sub bids occur enough to use up all the project contingency.”
Lane said all projects consist of a project triangle with three components: program, quality, and price. If the price exceeds what is included in the project contingency figures, the construction manager or architect will have to use “value engineering” to bring costs down to meet the guaranteed maximum price.
“What is really happening is either the quality or program is cheapened,” Lane said.
In his view, the project already has been cheapened by Lavallee Brensinger’s plans for the library.
The study committee supported a plan by Samyn-D’Elia Architects to completely renovate both the original section and the 1988 addition to the library, he said. It “simplified the entire existing and new areas by converting the existing building from a six-story to a three-story structure. This would be accomplished by jacking and raising the 1988 addition around 38 inches to the same level as the historical building. This provides optimal ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] access to all areas.”
The plan uses a lift to provide access to the “clock area” mezzanine, and there is a single 7-inch-high ramp.
By way of contrast, he said, Lavallee Brensinger’s plan leaves the 1988 addition at its present level, “such that the six floors remain in the existing building,” Lane said. “ADA access to these areas, and others is provided via extensive ramp systems with landings. The ‘clock area’ mezzanine remains non-ADA-accessible. These are not suitable solutions for a building for the next 75-plus years. ADA access should be the best possible.”
He said the Samyn-D’Elia plan reuses existing space so the project requires only 6,800 square feet of additional space, while Lavallee Brensinger’s plan requires a, 8,300-square-foot addition.
The original plan used the existing driveway and created a dropoff spot and handicapped parking by the main entrance, while the new plan creates a new driveway and parking area with no dropoff spot.
Lane also disputed the statement that Lavallee Brensinger's plan is $2 million cheaper.
"Their cost estimate did not carry the work for the parking lot ($116,000) that was in ours," he said. "Also, they did not include all the soft costs we were required to include, for another difference of more than $718,000. The difference is closer to $1 million and has a lot to do with the extent of renovations and quality in renovating the existing buildings."
Real or phantom ledge?
The trustees praised the new plan for siting the addition over the existing driveway to avoid having to deal with ledge on the property.
Lane says the depth, extent, and even the existence of ledge on the property is unknown. He said the study committee wanted to do one or two test borings in the construction area but did not have the time to do so.
“They recommended that, during the next phase of design development, test borings should be authorized very soon in the the process. That is normal design procedure,” he said. “Supposedly, ledge of some kind was encountered somewhere in the past, but the location and depth are unknown. It should be noted that the 1988 addition has its lowest level three feet below the existing historical building’s full basement and no ledge is indicated in these areas.”
He also noted that Lavallee Brensinger’s design includes a full elevator and a slab with five-foot-deep footings and frost wall, so he said ledge could be encountered in that design as well.
“I recommend that both the select board and library trustees step back and meet after the upcoming elections and help each other move this project forward,” Lane said.
“Both concepts are only completed to the schematic/conceptual design level, 10 to 15 percent complete. You also have two approaches available to evaluate and critique. Both have interesting and unique approaches.”
He added, “I feel strongly that the leveling of all floors is paramount to providing an excellent ADA-accessible building, no matter what design develops.”
He also said that, to avoid cost overruns, the town needs to insist on complete design and specification contract documents that “properly identify the level of quality and program required.”
Lane concluded by saying, “Voters in the town of Meredith would benefit in moving this project forward by voting for Ed Touhey, Jonathan James, and Ray Moritz, former members of the Feasibility Study Committee, and Bob Davis, who are informed and knowledgeable about all phases of this project. They have volunteered many hours talking to professionals and looking at all options for the best solutions to renovate the library and to meet all the needs of the library patrons, future residents, and library staff.”
Levallee Bresinger's conceptual drawing for the Meredith Public Library.
Samyn-D'Elia's conceptual drawing for the Meredith Public Library.
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