School Construction Costs Leap to by $21 Million in Cromwell


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CROMWELL — A project to build a new middle school is estimated to cost as much as $21 million more than the amount approved by the town in referendum last June. 

The project, which was approved for $58.6 million in the referendum, is now estimated to cost nearly $80 million. $17.3 million is in additional construction costs, and $3.8 million is in soft costs.

The committee first discovered the potential cost increases at a meeting on January 18, when Glynn said there were some inconsistencies found in the educational specifications, and that the preliminary estimates they had received for the project were “not favorable.”  

Rosanna Glynn, chair of the building committee, said at a committee meeting last week that the district was dealing with different project managers when the original estimates were made in April 2022, prior to the referendum. Since then, she said, construction costs had increased substantially. 

“I don’t think anyone could have imagined a war breaking out in the Ukraine last year or all the supply chain issues we’re having,” said Glynn. “This project is not immune from all that.” 

The construction increases include an increase in cost per gross square footage, escalation costs and “trade costs” — steel, HVAC, electrical, windows, roofing and other equipment. 

The increase also includes $1 million for an enlarged 500-seat auditorium that was left out of the building plans that the committee had been reviewing.

“The concept estimate also unfortunately did not include the cost of the expansion, even though we were led to believe repeatedly — repeatedly — that it was,” said Glynn. She added that she was not sure how this error had happened, since they had previously been working with different project managers. 

If the State of Connecticut approves the project, the town of Cromwell would be responsible for 60 percent of the increase — the state would cover 40 percent would come from the State of Connecticut in the form of a construction reimbursement grant. 

Joe Culotta, project architect for the architectural firm Perkins Eastman also identified an additional $4 million in potential cost savings, including site changes, electric HVAC and value engineering of the building, which, if accepted by the committee, could bring the cost down to a total of $73.7 million.

Committee members discussed whether to take the additional estimate to the town for referendum, or to wait until July, when the committee will receive official bids for the project. 

John Butkus, a program director for the project management company Arcadis, said that this was the fifth project they had seen that was having similar problems with the construction market. 

They also discussed how much could be cut from the building. Glynn said that, to her, the building specifications already looked very lean. She said it would be “short-sighted” to build a building that was too small. 

“I can very confidently say that nobody on this committee is trying to gold plate anything,” said Glynn. “But we are trying to build a building that is going to last 40, 50, 60 years and is going to meet the academic requirements for our middle school students.”  

The Town Council is holding a special meeting on Wednesday evening at 5:30 p.m. to discuss next steps for the project.

Emilia Otte

Emilia Otte covers health and education for the Connecticut Examiner. In 2022 Otte was awarded "Rookie of the Year," by the New England Newspaper & Press Association.