Upgrades to the kitchen area at Norton School are likely coming in the near future, but exactly how the work will be completed remains up in the air.
On Feb. 9, the Public Building Commission approached the Town Council for guidance on how to proceed with completing the necessary project, given the expected high cost of the improvements.
Steven Durkee, PBC secretary, stated that the cost estimate from the architect, Wojas Arch LLC, on the project is $532,516, but there is only $370,063 available for construction after the Town finishes paying the design professionals. The town originally allocated $400,000 for the project.
“This creates a $160,000 shortfall,” Durkee explained. “The project also requires code compliance and handicapped work.”
Durkee provided a number of options for the Council to consider, one being to postpone the construction work until 2022 to determine if additional financing might be available by then.
“Another option could be to scale back the project to fit the current budget,” Durkee said. “But the professionals cautioned that doing so could be difficult given the amount of work that needs to be done and how much new equipment is required. We could also perform a limited-scope project this summer focusing on the installation of a new walk-in cooler and freezer on the outside of the building.”
The latter option would cost the Town only $158,925, instead of $532,516.
Durkee went on to explain how out of date the kitchen at Norton is.
“Right now, Norton has a non-compliant kitchen,” he began. “There is no room for proper culinary sinks or hand-washing sinks, and storage is a major issue. This project will involve getting the food lines to flow better during lunch time and efficiently getting kids in and out in 20 minutes.”
Council member Tim Slocum recalled a similar renovation done at Doolittle School that created two food service lines instead of one to increase efficiency.
“Is this the same type of renovation that happened over at Doolittle? I remember that went very nicely and looked great,” he added.
Durkee responded that the work would hopefully be similar to the improvements made at Doolittle, and noted that they would also be creating two server lines at Norton.
Council Chair Rob Oris expressed his opinion on what should be done with the project and how the PBC should move forward.
“The architect’s estimate is $532,516 and the project is not even out to bid yet,” he began. “… I recommend that we try to reduce the project cost to below the referendum amount, which was $400,000, go out to bid, and get real, hard numbers, hoping that the project can be advanced sooner rather than later. I am comfortable with allocating some additional funds because the students definitely need it, but what I don't support is putting it off another year and a half due to the referendum issue. I believe that the PBC can fine-tune these numbers and do some value engineering to get some of these numbers to go down.”
Oris and other Council members also mentioned separating out the freezer project from the overall kitchen renovation and making it a completely separate project with its own timing and costs.
Durkee agreed to bring Oris and the Council’s recommendation to the PBC so they can reconsider their options and come back with an approved design.
No exact date was set for when the Building Commission would be ready to present their design.