Hartford Officials Say It's On Track For Spring 2012 Opening
By STEVEN GOODE
September 24, 2010
HARTFORD — — The concrete foundation has been poured and walls will go up soon.
Some contaminated soil still needs to be removed from the site, but city officials say the $77 million public safety complex under construction just north of downtown is on schedule for completion late next year and an early spring opening in 2012.
"At this point it's come out of the ground and you're going to see meat put on the bones," David Panagore, the city's chief operation officer, said Thursday.
When completed, the 150,000-square-foot complex will house the police department, fire department administration and 911 dispatch and include a two-level parking garage, separate, short-term lockups for men and women, the city's emergency operations center and the state's backup emergency operations center. The entire complex will be powered by fuel cells.
As of late August, Panagore said, the project had expended about $24 million of its $77 million budget. The project is being paid for through a $40 million bond issue from 2000 and a $37 million bond issue in 2007. Panagore said the project's total cost was reduced as a result of a $2.3 million federal grant. A separate $2.9 million federal grant enabled the city to upgrade some portions of the project.
City officials were criticized earlier this year by the failure of a plan to incorporate the brick exterior walls of the former board of education building, built in 1891, into the project. The walls were to have served as an exterior veneer of the new complex, but a section collapsed after the roof was removed to drive piles for foundation support.
Panagore said the architects and contractor inspected the remaining façade and determined that exposure to the elements over the years had caused moisture to soak into the bricks and mortar at the core and weakened the structure. Preservationists, however, questioned whether the decision to remove the roof had contributed to the deterioration and the city's commitment to saving it.
Panagore said the city initially resisted tearing down the remaining façade but eventually concurred with advice from architects and the contractor.
"We used our best judgment," he said.
Panagore said the city is also beyond its goal of maintaining a 20 percent presence of minorities and women in the project's workforce. Panagore said that by the city's calculation the project has 43 percent minorities and women working on it.
But city Councilman Larry Deutsch isn't so sure. Deutsch said minority contractors have been complaining to the council about a lack of opportunity to work on the project and he said he doesn't have enough details to support Panagore's numbers.
"Panagore felt he answered those questions, but many feel that those minority and women questions were not answered," said Deutsch, adding that he expected to get more detailed information next week.
Deutsch has also raised questions about the initial contracting process, language in the two bond issues and whether the city is due compensation from the demolition of the façade.
"There are many questions dating back to the initial conception and authorization," he said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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