Miscalculations by the architectural and engineering firm retained by Mount Kisco to design the expansion and renovation of the municipality’s three firehouses have left officials scrambling to determine how to move the project forward.
The Village Board recently learned that the estimate from H2M architects + engineers of Melville, N.Y. was off by about $1.6 million for the Green Street firehouse renovation. The largest reason for the variance was that the company based its projection on 9,345 square feet of space instead of more than 13,000 square feet. The Green Street facility is where the Union Hook & Ladder Co. and Mount Kisco Fire Rescue Police are based.
Additional mistakes calculating space at the Lexington Avenue firehouse, home to the Independent Fire Co., and the East Main Street facility that houses the Mutual Engine & Hose Co. were also made, acknowledged Veronica Byrnes, an assistant vice president for H2M. The extent of those errors and how much more it may cost the village have yet to be revealed, Mayor Gina Picinich said on Sunday.
“It was a mathematical error in our estimate and that’s really the biggest issue that caused the error in the cost estimate,” Byrnes said. “If we would have had the correct square foot total our estimate would have been about $5.2 million.”
Voters approved the $10.25 million referendum in November 2017 to pay for small additions and for infrastructure upgrades at the three firehouses. Picinich said H2M’s glaring mistake occurred before the vote was held.
Bids received by Feb. 1 for the Green Street work revealed that the lowest responsible bidder came in at $5,910,000 – $5,636,500 for construction costs and $273,500 for cash allowances.
The pre-bond estimated construction costs were pegged at $4,032,300 but when H2M did the calculations in preparing the bids, the construction estimate mushroomed to $5,000,262, Byrnes said.
Other factors have increased the cost at Green Street as well. Pile foundations are now needed at the site, which will cost an additional $150,000 to $250,000, because of poor soil conditions, Byrne said. Using the preferred Project Labor Agreement (PLA) will also inflate the cost by an undetermined amount, she said.
Estimates for the price per square foot before the vote were $350. In the bid that was received, the cost came in at $396.
For now, the board is taking no action on the bid until it can learn whether any portion of the higher cost can be covered by H2M’s errors and omissions insurance. The board has 45 days from when the bids were opened to vote to accept or reject.
Picinich and the board had harsh words for H2M last week. The mayor said the variance in price estimates per square foot would have been able to be absorbed had there been proper calculations because of the 20 percent contingency built into the bond.
She also said that there has been no explanation as to how H2M made the error.
“There’s been a real challenge that’s been presented, and in all honesty, this was so easy to get right and we could have planned for it,” Picinich said. “We could have tried to plan for it, and without the accurate information we can’t do what was promised to get done.”
At the Feb. 20 board meeting, Trustee Peter Grunthal was incensed that the firm was apparently treating the matter “as business as usual.” He called H2M’s mistake “a royal screwup” and pressed the firm to take financial responsibility.
“It took us years to get to the point to put a referendum to the public to spend a considerable amount of money and raising taxes because we need the firehouses to be upgraded, and now, we end up in this situation when you’re basically saying to us you’ve got to pull back,” Grunthal told Byrnes.
Trustee Jean Farber said that the village plans to speak to the firm’s insurance carrier.
Byrnes said steps can be taken to trim costs, including going from a PLA to using WICKS Law contracting.
“We have to address some of the value engineering options, whether it’s reducing some of the square footage in the buildings without compromising any of the design,” Byrnes said.
However, the firm’s partners will need to be consulted if any other course of action is taken, she said.
Picinich said that the village hopes to upgrade the three facilities in a manner consistent with what had been talked about leading up to the November 2017 vote.
“We all want to deliver the outcome that was planned,” Picinich said. “At this point, it appears that the only way to do that is to find additional funding. That means we have to generate additional revenue or cut back on other projects. My personal view is that we cannot put the additional burden on the taxpayers.”
The board plans to discuss the issue at its Mar. 4 meeting.